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The Proteomics of the Iceman's Death

Just how Ötzi, the Tyrolean Iceman who died more than 5,300, met his demise isn't quite clear. His well-preserved body shows evidence of both an arrow wound to the shoulder and, more recently discovered, a blow to the head.

One theory, Discovery News says, is that the arrow severed his subclavian artery, and he bled to death. Another, though, says that that injury caused him to lose consciousness, and he then died of a blow to the head, either by falling and hitting his head or by his attacker hitting him with a rock or similar object.

A group of European researchers led by first author Frank Maixner from Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at EURAC in Italy that provides some proteomic evidence for the second scenario, Discovery News says.

As they report in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Maixner and his colleagues examined two brain samples from Ötzi using both gel-based and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry-based proteomic techniques. From this, they identified more than 500 proteins, 41 of which are known to be highly expressed in the brain and nine that are specific to the brain. In addition, they note that they found 10 proteins related to blood and coagulation.

"An enrichment analysis revealed a significant accumulation of proteins related to stress response and wound healing," Maixner and his colleagues write. "Together with atomic force microscope scans, indicating clustered blood cells, our data reopens former discussions about a possible injury of the Iceman's head near the site where the tissue samples have been extracted."