The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


An Investigation into the Effects of X-Ray on the Recovery of DNA from Skeletal Remains

KIM L. ZIEGLER1, GERALD CONLOGUE2,3, BECKETT RONALD2,3, BLYTH TANIA3, ARONSEN P. GARY4 and FEHREN-SCHMITZ LARS1,4.

1Department of Zoology and Anthropology, Georg-August-University Goettingen, 2Bioanthropology Research Institute, Quinnipac University, 3Diagnostic Imaging Department, Quinnipac University, 4Department of Anthropology, Yale University

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The use of radiological methods to examine mummified and skeletal remains from archaeological contexts is assumed to be non-invasive and non-destructive. Although, there has been speculation concerning possible radiation-induced damage to DNA recovered from archaeological specimens following exposure to radiation, little research has been published. It is known that ionizing radiation may cause different effects on DNA whether X-ray photons interact directly with the DNA or more often indirectly through dissociated water molecules (radiolysis). Nearly everything known about the affection of DNA damages caused by ionizing radiation is based on investigation in living, hydrated organisms.

Here we present a study directly examining the effect of ionizing radiation on ancient DNA as well as the influence on the accessibility and analyses success. Long bone samples from nine individuals from three different burial sites were exposed to an X-ray dosage commonly used for paleoimaging and additionally to a 10-fold higher dosage. Comparison of unexposed, exposed and 10-fold exposed samples has been carried out qualitatively and quantitatively by amplification of autosomal STRs employing a multiplex PCR and real-time quantitative PCR.

The results show no statistical significant affection caused by radiation-induced DNA damage. There are no significant effects either on samples that were simply or multiply exposed to X-rays compared to non-exposed samples, nor between the individuals from different burial sites. Concluding, ionizing radiation has no effect on the DNA preservation in archaeological specimens.

This research is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, Grant Number: FE1161/1-1)

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