Unlocking the secrets of the Elephant Man
2013 08 30

By Andrew Bomford | BBC



The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, was an object of curiosity and ridicule throughout his life - studied, prodded and examined by the Victorian medical establishment. Now, 123 years after his death, scientists believe his bones contain secrets about his condition which could benefit medical science today.

Joseph Merrick began to develop abnormally from an early age, eventually being gawped at by Victorian circusgoers and examined by inquisitive doctors. The cause of his malformed head, curved spine, "lumpy" skin and overgrown right arm and hand has never been definitively explained.

Ironically, it is the medical preservation of Merrick’s skeleton that is now causing the greatest problems in unlocking his body’s secrets.

"The skeleton, which is well over a hundred years old now, is actually very clean," says Prof Richard Trembath, vice-principal for health at Queen Mary University of London, and the custodian of Merrick’s body.

"This represents a significant problem. On a number of occasions over the years the skeleton has been bleached during the preservation process. Bleach is not a good chemical to expose DNA to. It gives us an added problem in trying to extract sufficient quantities of DNA in order to undertake sequencing."

The hope is, though, that DNA can be extracted which will determine once and for all exactly what genetic condition he suffered from.

There have been several theories. For many years it was thought he had neurofibromatosis type 1, but in more recent years doctors have come to believe he had a condition known as Proteus Syndrome, or possibly a combination of both.

A team of geneticists from Queen Mary University of London, King’s College London, and the Natural History Museum are currently working on techniques to extract DNA from similar age bones which have also been bleached before beginning work on Merrick’s skeleton. They are anxious to keep any further damage to the bones to a minimum.

Bleach is sometimes used in labs to remove traces of DNA, so in many ways it is the worst possible thing to do to bones if the hope is to extract genetic information.

The genetic condition of Richard III’s remains - buried for hundreds of years below a car park in Leicester - is actually better than those of Merrick.

[...]


Joseph Merrick photographed (left), and his skull


Read the full article at: bbc.co.uk



The famous ’Train Scene’ from The Elephant Man (1980) depicting the hard life of Joseph Merrick:





Related Articles
We’re All Mutants: The Average Human Has 60 New Genetic Mutations
DARPA to Genetically Engineer Humans by Adding a 47th Chromosome
UK Public OK with creating babies from 3 people to avoid genetic diseases
Black Death Skeletons Unearthed
A giant mystery: 18 strange giant skeletons found in Wisconsin - Sons of god; Men of renown
Kennewick Man: Scientists unravel 9,300-year-old skeleton’s past
Bones of 200 soldiers from time of Christ so well preserved in bog that their DNA can be studied


Latest News from our Front Page

'The Interview' A Sony False Flag Hack and Hollywood's Empire of Mediocrity
2014-12-20 22:15
It’s official: Sony Pictures has pulled the plug on The Interview – across all media platforms. The chain of events which led to this point may forever be marked by historians as a seminal, watershed moment in this troubling epoch, known simply as, ‘The Age of Stupidity’. Without a doubt, the most exciting piece of foreign theater involving the US and North ...
US Silent on Psychologists Role in CIA’s Tortures: Doctors
2014-12-20 21:53
Physicians for Human Rights had not received any response from the US Federal Commission to their call to investigate the role of health professionals in CIA’s torture program, Deputy Director of the organization told Sputnik. December 19 (Sputnik) — US government has not responded to calls to prosecute doctors, who participated in CIA torture program, the Deputy Director of Communications for ...
Ziolebrities: Simon Cowell donates £100,000 to Israeli soldiers to please pregnant jewish girlfriend Lauren Silverman
2014-12-20 21:00
Cowell, 54, is also planning a secret trip to Israel soon as he embraces the Jewish faith of Silverman, 36 Gala: Billionaire Haim Saban with Cowell Simon Cowell has publicly donated nearly £100,000 in support of the Israeli army. The X Factor boss pledged the cash to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at a US fund-raiser in Beverly Hills. The lavish gala ...
Former Chief Security Officer for NewsCorp: N. Koreans Not Behind Sony Hack, Interview Leak
2014-12-20 2:17
Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and former chief security officer for NewsCorp/Fox studios, says North Korea isn’t behind the Sony Hack. Nigam gave several bullet points for why the hack was likely an inside job. Attack code borrowed from a previous attack on Seoul, that’s why it’s in Korean. Private hackers typically borrow malicious code from other hackers.Nations state attacks follow ...
Sony Fires Back at Obama: Actually We Did Call the White House – Several Times
2014-12-20 2:13
Sony fired back at Obama after the press conference saying they had several conversations with the Obama White House before and after the movie was canceled. Via The Hollywood Reporter: After President Obama criticized Sony for its decision to cancel The Interview's release after theater chains decided not to show the film, the studio has issued a statement elaborating on the move. “The ...
More News »