With mummies, researchers unravel medical mysteries - FOX 13 News

With mummies, researchers unravel medical mysteries

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Mummies are typically considered some of most feared villains of Hollywood, and most of us know them for their trademark wrappings and zombie-like movements.

Researchers say mummies are getting a bum wrap, since new technology is allowing us to peak inside their medical past.

The exhibit "Mummies of the World" currently at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry is a constantly evolving science project.

It features mummies hundreds, many times, thousands of years in the making.

"It's been a huge hit," explain Shannon Herbon of MOSI.  "We learn the most from our ancestors, we can how they lived, how they worked,  and how life was for them, so we can live our lives better."

Most mummies on display are considered "Natural Mummies."  Unlike Egyptian mummies, environmental conditions like temperature and humidity led to their preservation. 

"I think for a lot of people, it's a great surprise of how much we can learn from a mummy," says Dr Heather Gill-Freking, who leads the research.

She and her team use modern CT-Scans to search for historical answers.  That's the same device used to find cancer, bleeding and heart disease in patients, who are very much alive.

Dr. Gill-Freking explains, "We can study a mummy down to less than a half of millimeter, slice thickness on these ct scans, we can look at a mummy with medical imaging, so we rely on that quite often."

Researchers believe mummies were killed by many of the same conditions we tolerate today.

"They have clogged arteries, which we think of a modern day phenomenon," explains Gill-Freking. "A lot of our mummies have arthritis, and that is something we can't escape"

The exhibit features a family of Mummies dating back to 18th century Hungary.   Testing shows they were killed by the "White Plague" or "Consumption."

We know the illness as TB, or tuberculosis.   It's believed to have killed 65 percent of their village.

So far, the team has scanned more than 20 mummies. They hope to update their findings by rescanning older mummies with even newer equipment.

"As many times as I've done this, I always go in with some sort of perception, and some kind of thought of what the answer might be, but almost always wrong," explains Gill-Freking. "The thing about mummies is you never know what you are going to get."

The exhibit runs at MOSI through September 9th.

For more information: http://mummies.mosi.org/about-the-exhibit

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