Paleopathlogy of Ancient human Remains: A closer look at the heart and lung tissue

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In August 1999, frozen ancient human remains were found melting out of an east-west ridge-like glacier in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, northern British Columbia. This discovery was subsequently named Kwäday Dän Ts’inchi (Beattie et al, 2000). The remains were of an approximately 18-year-old male. The materials from his robe in combination with bone collagen were dated 1670 – 1850 AD (Richards et al, 2007). The University of British Columbia’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine was granted access to both hard and soft tissues in the remains. This book of images describes preservation of the lung and heart tissues as well as pathological findings in these samples. Some images of samples from fresh tissues used to establish the histological context are also included in this book. This is an extension of our previous studies on the state of preservation of the tissues using light and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) (Monsalve et al, 2008a).

Ultrastructure of lung and heart tissues was still recognizable; however, both tissues showed significant damage. In heart samples we observed fibers showing banding patterns similar to sarcomeres of cardiac myocytes (Monsalve et al in press (a)). The lung tissue sample also retained a remarkable amount of ultrastructure. We identified several subcellular components including nucleus, rough endoplasmic reticulum, lipid droplet, lysosome and mitochondria (Monsalve et al, 2008a).

In the lung and heart tissue, DNA evidence of mycobacterium was discovered by sequencing the amplicon from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (Monsalve et al, 2008b). TEM analysis also found morphological evidence of bacteria-like structure in lung tissue.

In addition, using light microscopy, we observed dark granular inclusions in lung tissue that resemble images of anthracosis found in the David Hardwick Pathology Learning Centre (DHPLC) database (Monsalve et al, 2010). In the analysis of the lung tissue using TEM, we demonstrated that these granular accumulations are essentially identical to India-ink residues found in alveolar macrophage of fresh lungs of rabbits (Monsalve et al, 2013). Further analysis with raman spectrometry of the Kwäday Dän Ts’inchi human remains showed evidence of four types of material to be present in the lung tissue sample: 1) ordered carbonaceous, 2) disordered carbonaceous, 3) mineral and 4) unidentified material (Monsalve et al, 2013).

Here we present light and transmission electron micrographs of the lung and heart tissues of the Kwäday Dän Ts’inchi human remains as well as some fresh tissue controls.

Maria Victoria Monsalve, PhD
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia, CanadaYueyang Shen
3rd year Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science, University of British Columbia, Canada

Elaine Humphrey, PhD
Advanced Microscopy Facility, University of Victoria, Canada

David C. Walker, PhD
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia, Canada, James  Hogg  iCAPTURE  Centre  for  Cardiovascular  and  Pulmonary  Research,  University  of
British Columbia, Canada