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Spatial distribution of the trace element zinc in bone as a possible indicator of tuberculosis

Faculty Advisor




tuberculosis, diagnosis, zinc, bone

Abstract (summary)

Tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient disease that continues to affect human civilization to this day. The objective of this analysis was to determine if variation in the pattern of zinc (Zn) distribution in the microarchitecture of bone can be associated with a diagnosis of TB. Raw data was previously collected using a non-destructive imaging technique, synchrotron radiation X-ray fluorescence imaging (SR-XFI), on small bone samples from three populations. One set was a modern cadaveric population and the other two sets were from 19th century archaeological populations that included samples from individuals with lesions suggestive of TB. This current study used ImageJ to convert the raw data sets to images that could be analyzed for variation in Zn. Although these patters cannot confirm the TB diagnosis, co-localization maps have revealed that a Franklin Expedition crew member, John Torrington, who had lesions consistent with TB, also had comparatively low levels of zinc. This finding suggests that bone zinc deposition (or lack thereof) may provide clues to an individual’s health. This also creates an opportunity to identify samples more ideal for the destructive ancient DNA testing method to analyze DNA fragments from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of TB, in archaeological bone.

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Student presentation




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