5,300 Year Old RBCs

May 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

Iceman RBC.jpg

By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin’s Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

In 1991, a couple hiking through the Italian Alps noticed something curious buried in the ice. What was assumed to have been the body of a fallen hiker, probably from a few years back, turned out to be “a 20th century archaeological sensation”. The remains were 5300 years old from a man who became known as Oetzi, a.k.a. The Iceman.

LiveScience reports that the Iceman “was so well preserved that scientists could estimate his age (about 45), his health and even his last meals (red deer meat with herb bread [but unfortunately for him, no Chianti]). His probable cause of death was thought to be an arrow wound to the shoulder that sliced an artery.”

Scientists studying Oetzi recently made an astonishing discovery. They were able to confirm that the donut-shaped structures found around the wound where the Iceman was fatally shot were red blood cells. The oldest human red blood cells ever to be studied.

Incidentally, his full genome was decoded a few months back. “It reveals that he had brown eyes, “O” blood type, and was predisposed to heart disease.” Oh, and he was lactose intolerant (5,300 years old with digestive problems, of course)…