Questions 1-11 refer to the following information.
I Told You I Was Sick!
Have you ever had the feeling that you were getting sick even though you had no sign of it yet? With all the bacteria in our bodies and in the world, it’s true that we’re never far away from a couple of coughs or sneezes. 1 The inconveniences of coughs and sneezes aside, imagine the challenges for forensic or ancient scientists. It seems like it would be very difficult to know how ill someone was if that person is now a cadaver and thus cannot speak or exhibit symptoms. A recent study and procedure, 2 even though, suggests that the ability to differentiate between carrying an illness and experiencing an illness may not be so far away.
This procedure involves shotgun proteomics. Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins. The term was coined in 1997 at the height of the popularity of genomics, 3 fashionable it is the study of how genes combine to form living organisms. Proteomics is based on the idea that proteins are every bit as crucial in creating life as are genes. The “shotgun” component comes from genetics as well, wherein the searches for genome patterns follow an approach whose randomness is akin to the scattering 4 shot; of a shotgun. Shotgun proteomics is used to identify complex mixtures of proteins, particularly where those proteins have become so 5 wrapped that they are difficult to separate and individuate.
6 All of the information contained in the above paragraph is very technical. However, we do not need to be accomplished scientists to understand the discoveries made by shotgun proteomics. For scientists studying ancient disease, the challenge is usually that the bodies of those being studied have decayed past the point of usefulness. In some instances, as in freezing or mummification, the bodies are well-preserved, but the presence of 7 those doesn’t necessarily reveal whether the people actually suffered from the diseases.
This new process with the funny name, shotgun proteomics, 8 is extremely difficult to pronounce. Researchers unearthed the mummies of three ancient Incans who died 500 years ago, and through shotgun proteomic analysis, these researchers determined that while all three mummies had traces of a particular lung disease, only two of the Incans actually 9 experiences the symptoms of that disease while alive. The proteins of two of the subjects exhibited immune responses, and some traces of lung irregularity, throat laceration, and 10 specimens of standing mucus under the nose gave further credence to the idea that the subjects suffered from some disease akin to tuberculosis. One other subject contained many of the same pathogens but showed no signs of infection.
These are exciting times for those who study disease in the ancient world. 11 Even for those of us who don’t, however, these findings should still be exciting: after all, the better we understand disease from any era, the more able we are to prevent it in the future.