Remains of children with Down syndrome aged up to 5,500 years found in Navarre

Researchers led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany have analyzed this 10,000 ancient genomes and they found it six cases of people with Down syndrome And one with Edwards syndromewho mostly died before or shortly after birth thousands of years ago.

As the research center announced this Tuesday, the results corresponded to different periods, up to 5,500 years old, and several of them They met in Navarre. According to the authors, “The care with which the burials were carried out and the items found with these individuals indicate that they were probably ancient societies.” treated people with trisomies 18 and 21 as members of their communities“.

The results of this research have just been published in the journal Nature Communications. The head of the Evolution, Population Genetics and Paleogenomics research group at the University of La Laguna (ULL), Rosa Fregel Lorenzoasserted that “the study led by Rohrlach shows the great potential of paleogenomic techniques to study the past.”

In this case, he added: “Genomic data has been used to identify people in the past who had one of the three trisomies that are non-fatal in humans: Down syndrom (trisomy of chromosome 21), Edwards syndrome (chromosome 18) and Patau syndrome (chromosome 13). From a database of almost 10,000 people, it was found that six people had Down syndrome in childhood and only one of them had Edwards syndrome.

The strangest thing, according to the researcher, is that three of the six cases of Down syndrome and the only case of Edwards were discovered in Iron Age sites in Navarre, in intramural burials of newborns. Given that the burial practices of this population included the cremation of human remains, it is interesting that in all cases these boys and girls were buried differently and with great care.

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For his part, the researcher in population genetics in biomedicine at the Health Research Institute of Santiago de Compostela (IDIS) and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Santiago de Compostela, Antonio Salas Ellacuriaga, emphasized that “the integration of “This provides information with anthropological and archaeological data a solid basis for formulating hypotheses about how these societies dealt with human diversity, particularly in relation to well-known disorders such as Down syndrome and Edwards syndrome.”

The authors approached the study with outstanding technical skill and constructed a careful and self-critical story that revealed some limitations. Despite certain weaknesses, the study opens an important window that will generate interest in the further study of other conditions and diseases with very low prevalence that have not previously been able to be treated due to the limited population data available for the study. Ancient DNA.

The scientists found that the prevalence of trisomies does not appear to be significantly different from that observed in current populations. There is a slight variation which could be due to sampling phenomena, preservation of bone remains, etc.

Furthermore, by analyzing burial rituals, the authors suggested that ancient societies did not distinguish between individuals with these syndromes and other members of the population. The most significant impact of this study was that it opened a new avenue for studying our past and highlighted the importance of integrating information from diverse fields of knowledge, from genetics to physical anthropology.

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