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 War Against Whites Is Massively Incentivized
2014 08 28
The war on Whites is getting increasingly obvious, to the point that a very mainstream source, Congressman Mo Brooks, stated it and then refused to back down. This war is being carried on with a number of very potent weapons. At TOO we have stressed the moral onslaught which has inculcated guilt among legions of Whites for actions that have occurred ...
Study Offers Clues to Arctic Mystery: Paleo-Eskimos’ Abrupt Extinction
2014 08 28
Seven hundred years ago, the Dorset people disappeared from the Arctic. The last of the Paleo-Eskimos, the Dorset culture had dominated eastern Canada and Greenland for centuries, hunting seal and walrus through holes in the ice and practicing shamanistic rituals with ornate carvings and masks. Then, they promptly ceased to exist. Modern archaeologists have scoured troves of Arctic artifacts, searching for ...
Lois Lerner’s IRS Blackberry Destroyed After Federal Probe
2014 08 28
The IRS destroyed former Lois Lerner’s BlackBerry after Congress started probing whether the IRS was targeting conservative groups. Lerner was director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS. A sworn declaration of Thomas Kane, a senior IRS lawyer, reveals that in June 2012, the IT department of the IRS wiped any sensitive or proprietary information from the BlackBerry in ...
White Marine Beaten by Black Mob in Michael Brown ‘Revenge’ Attack
2014 08 28
Police refuse to treat incident as a hate crime A white Marine was left in an induced coma after a group of black men brutally beat him as part of a revenge attack in response to the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident began at West Point Waffle House in Mississippi on Saturday morning at around 1am. With ...
Study: Exposure to Endocrine disrupting Chemicals Can Affect Future Generations
2014 08 28
Scientists have known that toxic effects of substances known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), found in both natural and human-made materials, can pass from one generation to the next. New research shows that females with an ancestral exposure to EDC may show especially adverse reactions to stress. According to a new study by researchers from The University of Texas at Austin ...
More News »