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Ancient Human Brains 2,600 Years Ago Provide Important Clues for the Treatment of Dementia

The Link Between Haslingston's Brain And Dementia

According to news on March 30, according to relevant media reports, the world’s best-preserved ancient human brain—the Heslington brain, has a history of more than 2,600 years. This brain belongs to a beheaded male scientist in ancient Britain. The latest research shows that the Heslingston brain may be the key to the treatment of dementia in humans.
This ancient human brain, called the "Hesslington Brain", is very well preserved. It was discovered by archaeologists in a mud pit in the village of Heslington near Yorkshire, England in 2008. Archaeologists believe that this unprecedented state of brain preservation is due to tightly folded protein clusters called "aggregates."
This tightly folded protein cluster may protect the brain from decomposition. Previously, the medical community believed that incorrectly folded protein structures were the cause of Alzheimer's disease and similar diseases. Now, researchers hope to find the difference between the folding of disease-causing proteins and the "polymers" that have kept the brain for thousands of years. They also hope that further analysis will help treat diseases where protein folding causes cognitive decline. For example: dementia.

Mutations in Brain Proteins Leave Tissues Intact

The author of the study report and University College London neurologist Dr. Axel Pezod said that there are many mutations in brain proteins that can promote the formation of folding structures, and these mutations are related to human diseases. These findings have implications for protein folding and aggregation structures. The formation of related diseases is of great significance.
This ancient British man probably died between 673-482 BC, when he was only in his 30s, and his brain was the oldest and well-preserved gray matter structure in the world. The brain was discovered in a decapitated skull at an Iron Age site. Researchers say it has a flexible, tofu-like structure.
The 30-year-old male deceased was hanged before he was beheaded by a knife. His head was cut off and immediately buried. Some archaeologists believe that he is likely to be a victim of a living sacrifice. After more than 2,600 years, other parts of the male deceased's body could not be found. Unlike his brain, all his body tissues were rotten. And this also creates a mystery, why can the brain tissue be preserved intact? As we all know, the brain breaks down faster than other parts of the body.


Inhibit Autolysis Helps the Brain Protect Tissues

However, in addition to protein folding, scientists have also proposed other explanation theories. Inhibiting autolysis may help protect brain tissue. Autolysis refers to the process by which body tissues self-destruct through their own enzymes after human death. This is likely to inhibit autolysis from the outside of the brain, and some acidic liquid penetrates into the brain and slowly spreads inward.
The researchers explained that acidic compounds may help preserve brain tissue. The way humans die or are buried depends on whether their brain tissue can be preserved for a long time. Pezod stated that the deceased must have suffered severe brutality and violence during his lifetime, and the evidence also showed that he had suffered heavy blows to the head or neck before being beheaded.
The researchers spent 1 year to stabilize the brain tissue, then took out the high-density folded protein and found that it had the characteristics of normal active brain tissue. The British research team used a powerful microscope to analyze the brain structure in detail, and scanned the brain tissue with a focused electron beam. Surprisingly, the brain proteins restored their normal activity characteristics.
If researchers can find this unique way of protein folding from human brain samples 2,600 years ago, they may have important clues to the treatment of patients with dementia. The discovery of brain aggregates will also help treat diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's.

The Well-preserved Mystery of Heslington's Brain

Researchers say that unlike Iceman and most other well-preserved ancient human brains, Heslington’s brain has no signs of head hair, facial skin, and other soft tissues. Scientists' radiocarbon measurement of skull gelatinous bone protein showed that the deceased lived between 673-482 BC, and there is currently no discovery of the use of tannins or artificial preservation techniques. This ancient brain tissue was completely preserved after rapid decomposition and autolysis after the death of the human body. It is still an unsolved mystery.
There is no evidence in the study that the man suffered from any mental illness at the time of death. In short, in a natural environment for thousands of years, room temperature cannot preserve brain proteins perfectly.
Dr. Pezod said that unlike brain proteins, the quality of DNA preservation tissue is poor, and it cannot be reliably sequenced. The research data on protein stability obtained from the unique discoveries of prehistoric human brains shows that the well-preserved ancient human brain tissue plays an important role in the fields of protein marker research, medicine, structural and functional proteomics, biomedical applications and archaeology.
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