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The Iceman's Heart

Ötzi the Iceman was found mummified in the Alps, and he has since be subject to a number of tests, not only to determine how he died some 5,300 years ago — was it the arrow or the blow to the head? — but also to understand his genome and genetic predispositions.

Back in 2012, an international team of researchers reported sequencing Ötzi's genome, saying that it indicated that he not only had a high likelihood of having had brown hair and eyes, but that he was at increased risk of developing heart disease.

In Global Health, researchers led by the University of Tubingen's Johannes Krause focus on that increased risk for cardiovascular disease. In their review, the researchers note that Ötzi has a number of variants linked to heart disease, including two minor alleles in SNPs located on 9p21 that are a known major coronary heart disease risk loci.

Indeed, at the time of his demise, Ötzi's arteries already exhibited evidence of atherosclerosis despite his active lifestyle and lack of other risk factors common in modern humans like smoking and a high-fat diet.

This suggests, Krause and his colleagues say, that heart disease isn't a strictly modern disease and that genetics plays a large role in its development.

"He didn't smoke; he was very active; he walked a lot; he was not obese," first author Albert Zink from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano tells LiveScience. "But nevertheless, he already developed some atherosclerosis."