Science magazine reveals the secret to cellular survival for a chunk of human brain that didn’t rot for more than two and half millennia after its owner was beheaded:
Using several molecular techniques to examine the remaining tissue, the researchers figured out that two structural proteins—which act as the “skeletons” of neurons and astrocytes—were more tightly packed in the ancient brain. In a yearlong experiment, they found that these aggregated proteins were also more stable than those in modern-day brains. In fact, the ancient protein clumps may have helped preserve the structure of the soft tissue for ages, the researchers report today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
The scientists still aren’t sure what made the proteins aggregate, but they suspect it could have something to do with the burial conditions, which appeared to take place as part of a ritual.