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Soft tissue paleopathology

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  • Ian Pitchford
    SCIENCE-WEEK -- ABSTRACTS: December 29, 2000 -- Vol. 5 Number 52 =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= 1. SCIENCE IN HISTORY: SOFT
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2000
      SCIENCE-WEEK -- ABSTRACTS: December 29, 2000 -- Vol. 5 Number 52

      The branch of science called "paleopathology" has two aspects:
      Research in this area seeks a) to arrive at a broader
      understanding of human disease by correlating the pathological
      findings of mummified human tissue with known historical and
      cultural trends; and b) to provide insights for historical
      research, particularly in connection with the history of specific
      populations. It is known that in addition to the ancient
      Egyptians, many historical populations practiced mummification,
      including the people living along the Torres Strait between Papua
      New Guinea and Australia, and including the Incas of South
      America. Mummification does not preserve all soft tissues, and
      paleopathological analysis of mummies has its constraints, but
      the science has provided information unobtainable by other means.

      For most of the 20th century it was believed that in the
      mammalian central nervous system, including in humans, the nerve
      fibers of the brain and spinal cord were incapable of
      regeneration sufficient to restore function. It is now understood
      that the regenerative capacity of the central nervous system is
      not intrinsic to central nervous system nerve cells, but depends
      on the circumstances of damage and the immediate environment of
      the nerve cells. Regeneration can occur in the damaged central
      nervous system, and this new understanding has caused
      considerable excitement in the neurobiological and medical

      The rapid advances in cell biology of the past several decades
      have been exhilarating and the promise for the future is
      extraordinary. Cell biology has grown to encompass many other
      disciplines and has benefitted from the synergy of different
      approaches. Cell biologists are just beginning to see impact from
      the fields of genomics and computational biology, and they can
      look forward to increasing impact on medicine. Cell biology is
      poised to make even more rapid progress, and it is incumbent on
      cell biologists to communicate and share the excitement and
      promise with society at large.

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