Paleopathologic diagnosis based on experimental mummification.

The difficulties of diagnosis of pathologic conditions are immensely magnified when the subject of a postmortem examination has been postmortem for several hundreds to thousands of years. Artefacts of decomposition and bacterial and fungal invasion are compounded upon those of rehydration when mummified tissue is examined. As an approach to these problems, a study of the changes seen in experimentally mummified and rehydrated tissues was undertaken. Normal and pathologic tissues were studied in comparison to sections prepared from the fresh tissue. The experimentally mummified tissues were generally similar to, but somewhat better preserved than, actual human mummies. There was organ and tissue specific variability in preservation, and different classes of pathology likewise showed differential preservation. Inflammatory reactions were not very well-preserved although infecting microorganisms were easily identified. Degenerative processes such as atherosclerosis and others characterized by the accumulation of abnormal products, were well preserved, while necrosis, as in acute myocardial infarction, was not. Malignancies were particularly well preserved. The implications of these findings for previous and future mummy studies is discussed in terms of our understanding of the evolution of disease processes.

Main Author: Zimmerman, Michael.
Language: English
Published: 1979
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