May 2 - Scientists examining the remains of Otzi, Italy's prehistoric iceman who roamed the Alps some 5,300 years ago, have discovered what they believe to be the oldest traces of human blood ever found. Jim Drury tells the story.
According to scientists, the red blood cells discovered in wounds suffered by Otzi the iceman are the oldest traces of human blood ever found. The reseachers found the traces while examining the murdered hunter's body which lay perfectly preserved for 5,300 years in the Italian Alps. Otzi was discovered by German climbers in 1991 on a glacier. Examinations showed he was killed by an arrow in the back while ascending a mountain. Scientists from Bolzano in Italy have been making new discoveries about the man ever since. Most recently, they used an atomic force microscope to examine tissue sections from two wounds - one caused by the deadly arrow and another from a hand laceration. Their findings have changed the theory behind his death. Originally it was thought Otzi bled to death over a period of days. But the presence in his wound of fibrin, a protein involved in blood clotting which decays fast, indicates Otzi probably died quickly. The scientists say the red cell samples are remarkably similar to the doughnut shaped cells found in healthy people today. Otzi, who had brown hair and type-O blood, was believed to be about 45 years old when he died. Earlier this year, the researchers sequenced his entire genome. . They determined he had a predisposition for cardiovascular diseases and lactose intolerance. He also had brown eyes indicating possible Middle Eastern origins. This latest discovery is one more piece of the puzzle. Jim Drury, Reuters