Archaeologists have probably found the oldest case of leukemia, in a 7000-year old skeleton

World_Oldest_Leukemia_Case_7000-Year_Old_Skeleton_1Credit: University of Tübingen

A few days ago, we talked about a prehistoric site of massacre discovered in Germany. Well, now it seems that there are other historical scopes that balefully match with our present-day affairs – as is evident from what might be the earliest case of leukemia in a 7,000-year-old skeleton. To that end, German researchers have identified the remains of this individual (a woman probably belonging to the 30 – 40 age group) at a Neolithic site near Stuttgart-Mühlhausen in south western Germany. She was mostly likely a member of the so-called Linear Pottery culture, a faction that had thrived in Europe for about 700 years (from 5500 BC), and were known for their creative pottery designs.

As is often the technique used in modern archaeology, the researchers (from Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, at the University of Tübingen) made some high resolution CT scans of the 7000-year old skeleton. And on closer analysis, they discovered a typical lack of spongy bone in the bone tissue of the sternum and the humerus. This case of bone resorption (by which bones are weakened and minerals are released, resulting in a transfer of calcium from bone fluid to the blood) was found to be higher than in comparable age groups – both back then and in our contemporary times.

This had led to the credible hypothesis that the woman perhaps suffered from the first stages of leukemia. Moreover, the researchers have ruled out other diseases such as osteoporosis and bone tumor – given the localized pattern of the bone tissue’s dilapidation in the sternum and the humerus. Now in terms of history, archaeologists have previously identified strains of a special type of leukemia in Andes mummies. But this discovery makes the case for the earliest occurrence of the cancer ever found in a human specimen.

Anyhow, Frank Rühli, director of the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, made it clear (in an interview with Discovery News) –

Based even on such state-of-the-art imaging, one can never be 100 percent sure about such a paleopathological finding. That said, to have an indication for the oldest paleopathological record of a modern, frequent disease with a major impact such as leukemia is very important from the perspective of the evolution of the disease.


A Specimen Of Linear Pottery.

Source: Discovery News

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