Sunday, 12 September, 2010

Ancient iceman's gene map underway

Otzi, the 5,000-year-old frozen mummy, undergoes modern genetic mapping this year, an international team announced Tuesday.

Members of the team that recently completed gene maps of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun's family will join with gene sequencing expert Andreas Keller to create a biomedical gene map of the famous iceman, discovered by Alpine hikers in 1991, linking his lineage to diseases and cell biology.

"We are dealing here with old DNA which in addition is heavily fragmented", says Albert Zink of the EURAC Institute for Mummies, in a statement. "It was only by using the very latest technology with its low failure rate that we scientists were able to decode Ötzi's DNA in its entirety within this short space of time."

A look at Otzi's maternal DNA in a 2008 Current Biology report found no links between the iceman, killed by flint arrowhead fired into his back, and modern Europeans. The team hopes to find more about possible living relatives from the enhanced genetic map and look for signs of changes in human genes since Otzi's death.