From autopsy to diagnostic imaging and metagenomics: guidelines

I am glad that my symposium "From autopsy to diagnostic imaging and metagenomics: guidelines" was accepted by the Scientific Committee of the 9 World Congress on Mummy Studies.

Frank Ruehli, Raffaella Bianucci, Dong Hoon Shin

Bioethical guidelines in mummy research imposed scholars to avoid unnecessary damages to ancient people corpses. Therefore, in the past two decades, mummy professionals resorted mainly to the use of non-invasive techniques; these enable to verify the state of preservation of the internal cavities, without harming the bodily integrity, and to propose a series of differential diagnoses. Despite the undeniable advantages, also non-invasive techniques have their drawbacks. CT imaging does not always allow one to perform a clear differentiation between mummified organs, particularly when these are seriously deformed and dislocated by dehydration. Dehydrated organs display similarities in radio-densities, which, in turn, may lead to misdiagnosis. To mitigate possible biases in the interpretation of paleo-radiological findings, guided endoscopy has been associated to CT imaging. Although some successful studies were reported, due to the narrow visual field of the endoscope, often organs still cannot be visualized at the desired extent. In the clinical field, the correct interpretation of CT images has been achieved throughout a continuous comparison process with the data emerged from repeated post-factum dissection, histological investigations included. Cumulative results from traditional autopsies performed on mummies from all areas of the globe should be reconsidered as a positive contribution to the field as they will help to prove the authenticity of diagnosis obtained through CT acquired data. Today, medical data acquired from both invasive and non-invasive techniques greatly benefit from the input given by paleogenetics. Recent advances in metagenomics, either performed on inner organ biopsies, teeth or dental calculus are constantly improving our knowledge on the antiquity and microevolution of human past diseases. Finally, guidelines on how and when to perform different diagnostic approaches on ancient mummies are lacking and are desperately needed.

Robert Loynes
Dario Piombino-Mascal
Sahar Saleem
Abigail Bouwman
Roger Seiler
Niels Lynnerup
Frank Ruehli
Stephanie Zesch
Kim MJ, Yoo DS and Shin DH


Invasive technique in accumulation of knowledge for a better non-invasive studies on mummies

Myeung Ju Kim, Dong Soo Yoo, and Dong Hoon Shin

Bioanthropology and Paleopathology Lab, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea

Scholars in South Korea, like those in the other countries, always care about the minimal damage to mummies while studying on them by various scientific methods. To reduce such   destructions, non-invasive technique has been applied to the mummies as a top priority of examinations. Radiological technique becomes a main research tool for any of mummy studies around the world, for seeing the preservations status of their internal organs and getting any clues for medical diagnosis.
Although the academic importance of non-invasive technique for mummy studies is unquestionable nowadays, however, it still has many drawbacks because this method (for instance CT image analysis), even when employed by highly experienced radiologists, cannot clearly distinguish each mummified organ that was seriously distorted and dislocated by dehydration. Actuallyas as our Aufderheide pointed out, such modern CT technique developed for diagnosing living patients could not be easily used for mummy studies.
At this point, we note that in clinical fields, the correct reading of CT images is firmly based on the accumulated scientific data, comparing repeated post-factum autopsy with its counterpart CT diagnosis. This means that even the mummy autopsy, despite its drawbacks, might be indispensable for concerned researchers, at least under a due consideration of ethics, circumstances and consensus about the need of such studies. As the cumulative results of such invasive study on mummies in fact guarantee more accurate CT readings for them in the future, autopsy of mummies, for making our invaluable non-invasive techniques much authentic,  must be considered much positively than before.


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