The unfolding story of a brain with staying power


Axel Petzold

The mystery of how a 2600-year-old brain was preserved may have been at least partly solved.

Normally, the brain starts to decompose minutes after death, but this brain, discovered in a skull found in a pit in Yorkshire, England, in 2008, has survived for thousands of years.

An international research team led by University College London found that that the proteins which help hold a human brain together can fold themselves tightly into very stable structures, called aggregates, which may allow the proteins to be preserved for millennia.

Axel Petzold and colleagues took a year to unfold the proteins and when they did, they found they regained many of the features typically encountered in a normal, living human brain.

The research is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

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  1. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsif.2019.0775
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