Biomedical Studies on Health and Disease Status of Our Ancestors
Dong Hoon Shin, Seoul National University School of Medicine
Over the past years, we have attempted to build an ancient human sample collection consisting of specimens obtained from Joseon tombs (1392-1910 CE) of Korea. A series of our investigations of the Joseon samples have revealed important scientific information concerning the lives of pre-modern Korean people though this approach is a relatively new discipline in this country. Actually, various biomedical researches were undertaken on the samples to reveal the specific diseases prevailing in a pre-modern Korean population.
Such diseases include dental caries, tumor, congenital disorders, Rheumatoid arthritis, traumatic injuries, periostitis, degenerative disease, atherosclerosis, and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, viral hepatitis and various helminthic infections. Of the techniques we used in the studies, ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis attracted keen attention from the scientific community in Korea. While aDNA analysis enables us to obtain invaluable genetic profiles from ancient human samples unearthed in archaeological fields, aDNA of various pathogens were also amplified with the archaeological samples, by which we can get the solid evidence for hypothesis about their molecular evolution in history. Our scientific information can be very significant because it is entirely original and not to be commonly found in any library resource for historians. By the biomedical data that could not be easily obtained from the contemporary materials, a comprehensive view about a vivid glimpse of the pre-modern Korean people’s lives can be successfully acquired. In South Korea, aDNA analysis becomes more and more instrumental in reconstructing the health and disease status of our ancestors using firm