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DNA extraction from mummified tissues

Related Terms

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Background

  • Extraction of DNA is a laboratory technique used to obtain the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from biological samples, such as archaeological and historical skeletal material (related to skeleton/bones), mummified tissues, old collections of non-frozen medical specimens, preserved plant remains, ice and permafrost cores (permanently frozen earth), etc. Archaeology refers to the scientific study of material remains of past human life and activities. A mummified tissue or body is a well-preserved dead body/tissue of a human being or an animal by unusual natural conditions or embalming, a preservation process practiced by the ancient Egyptians.
  • Genes, or segments of DNA, are considered the building blocks of life because they provide instructions for all the cells in the body. DNA is a long thread-like molecule made up of large numbers of nucleotides. Nucleotides are molecules composed of a nitrogen base, a 5-carbon sugar, and one or more phosphate groups. The sequence of bases in DNA serves as the carrier of genetic (hereditary) information. Long strands of nucleotides form nucleic acids.
  • Uses: Extraction of nucleic acids from well-preserved tissues or mummified tissues is considered important, especially in the field of anthropology, the scientific study of the origin, behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans in relation to time and space. It is also of importance in the study of ancient life forms existing in prehistoric or geologic times, as represented by the fossils of plants, animals, and other organisms (known as paleontology). To study the emergence of disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi (pathogens), and their progress since ancient times, also requires nucleic acids. DNA extraction from ancient tissues has found its use even in science or technology of the investigation and establishment of facts or evidence in a court of law (known as forensic science).
  • Sample: DNA of mummified tissues may be extracted from several types of biological samples, such as bones, teeth, muscles, skin, hair roots, the brain, blood vessels, genitals, lungs, etc. However, extracting nucleic acids from mummified tissues is significantly difficult, as the amount of DNA retained in the mummy is assumed to be minute, degraded, chemically modified, and contaminated due to various factors (e.g. environment) over a long period of time.

Methods

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Research

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Implications

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Limitations

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Safety

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Future Research

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.