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Friday, March 27, 1998 Published at 22:02 GMT


Mummified DNA may help tackle diseases
image: [ Keyhole surgery technology is used to take samples ]
Keyhole surgery technology is used to take samples

A tissue bank of samples from Egyptian mummies is being set up to help in the hunt to find cures for current day diseases.

Watch Pallab Ghosh's report in Real Video
It is also hoped that the work will enable scientists to discover more about the ethnic origin of modern nations.

Researchers at Manchester University Museum (MUM), in the north of England, have written to 8,000 universities and museums around the world seeking DNA samples from mummies in their collections.

[ image: Ancient DNA could hold the clues to cure modern ills]
Ancient DNA could hold the clues to cure modern ills
They plan to analyse the tissue, some of it 5,000 years old, for parasitical diseases such as malaria.

The hope is that by tracking a disease's progress and mutation over the centuries it will be possible to develop new treatments.

Rosalie David from MUM said: "There is just a possibility we may see changes, over that time, in the parasite of the particular disease that we are studying."

Tracing the footsteps of whole peoples

The tissue bank will also be used to test current theories about population migration and the ethnic origin of people in different parts of the world.

DNA expert Dr Adrian Lister of University College London, said: "We are interested in how particular groups of people came to live in the area they live in today.

[ image: DNA analysis may reveal more about the ancient Egyptians]
DNA analysis may reveal more about the ancient Egyptians
"By tracing their genetic links to ancient populations, particularly around the Mediterranean area and in Africa - where we think many modern European populations ultimately came from - we can actually compare our genetics with those of these ancient people and figure out where we came from."

It is also hoped the tissue testing will yield more clues about the physical characteristics of the ancient Egyptians, such as hair colour.

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