Teeth Shown to Preserve Centuries Old Antibodies

Teeth Shown to Preserve Centuries Old Antibodies

Researchers have made a remarkable discovery that ancient human teeth may hold the key to unraveling the history of infectious diseases. A recent study led by Professor Robert Layfield and Barry Shaw from the University of Nottingham, in collaboration with Professor Anisur Rahman and Dr. Thomas McDonnell from University College London, found that antibodies extracted from medieval human teeth, dating back 800 years, remain stable and capable of recognizing viral proteins.

These antibodies, produced by the immune system as a defense against infectious agents, offer a unique glimpse into the past. The field of palaeoproteomics, which examines ancient proteins, has already successfully identified proteins from remarkably old specimens, such as a 1.7-million-year-old rhinoceros tooth enamel and a 6.5-million-year-old ostrich eggshell.

Surprisingly, this study also hints at the preservation of stable antibodies in the bones of mammoths that lived nearly 40,000 years ago. This breakthrough could provide insights into how human immune responses developed over time, shedding light on historical diseases like the Black Death.

Professor Layfield expressed astonishment at the finding that intact, functional antibodies can be extracted from archaeological remains. Professor Rahman highlighted the significance of this discovery, explaining that these ancient antibodies can still recognize viruses and bacteria, offering the potential to investigate diseases that plagued past populations.

In summary, the study’s groundbreaking insights into the preservation of antibodies in ancient teeth have opened a new avenue for exploring the history of infectious diseases and understanding how the human immune system has evolved over centuries.

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