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Saturday, 1 April, 2000, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Mummies yield medical secrets
Tutankhamen
Could Tutankhamen aid medical research ?
Experts on ancient Egypt, meeting in Cairo, have revealed how modern medical techniques are helping their research into mummies, and how doctors are benefiting in return.

Egyptologists say mummies are now being used as a test bed in experiments involving some of the very latest medical equipment, including DNA checks and hi-tech scanning.

The keeper of Egyptian antiquities at the British Museum in London, Vivian Davis, told the BBC there was growing co-operation between the fields of medicine and Egyptology.



Archaeologists from all over the world have gathered in Cairo

Mummies, he said, were now being used as guinea pigs in experiments involving some of the very latest medical equipment.

"You can't experiment on live people because if you make a mistake you kill them or damage them.

"But you can do it with ancient remains, and the museum has in fact loaned mummies to a number of hospitals in London to carry out these experiments.

Diseases

"In return of course, they've been able to tell us what's inside these mummies and give us all kinds of new information.

"So it's of benefit to both sides and we're learning all the time what we can give each other."


Sphinx
Desert environments keep mummies' cells intact
Research on mummies and skeletons has also revealed that ancient Egyptians suffered from diseases still with us today - such as tuberculosis, malaria and bilharzia.

Dr Fawzia Hilmi Hussein, an Egyptian doctor and expert on human remains, believes Egyptology could help in studying the evolution of diseases.

"If it's possible to find out the first time it appears, why did it appear? If there was a time when it was not present, why was it not present?" she said.

Participants at the Cairo congress also say that prescriptions written on papyrus hold a host of herbal remedies, although many of them have yet to be deciphered from the hieroglyphs.

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