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Scientists Examine Well-Preserved Iron Age Brain Tissue

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Iron Age BrainLONDON, ENGLAND—According to a CNN report, researchers led by Axel Petzold of University College London examined the Heslington brain, a 2,600-year-old organ discovered in a decapitated skull found in a clay-rich pit in northern England. Made up of more than 80 percent water, brains usually decompose quickly due to the action of enzymes present in human tissues. Petzold and his colleagues found that the outer areas of the Heslington brain still had proteins in place that normally act like scaffolding and maintain brain structure. But, the proteins had folded together even more tightly after death, and had caused the Heslington brain to shrink and become more compact. The scientists also observed this process in another brain about three months after death. They suggest that some sort of acidic fluid may have come in contact with the remains and deactivated the enzymes usually responsible for decomposition. Further research into such brain protein folding and unfolding could be useful for the study of neurodegenerative diseases, Petzold added. To read about the "Egtved Girl," whose brain was partially preserved in waterlogged soil after she died around 1370 B.C., go to "Bronze Age Bride," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2015.

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