Feature | CT Angiography (CTA) | December 02, 2015

Imaging Yields Evidence of Heart Disease in Archeological Find

Preserved hearts dating back to the late 16th century to early 17th century examined using MRI, CT, to find atherosclerosis

Lead heart-shaped lead urns unearthed at the excavation site. Image by Rozenn Colleter, Ph.D./INRAP.

Picture of the five heart-shaped lead urns. Image by Rozenn Colleter, Ph.D./INRAP.

Archeologist, Dr. Rozenn Colleter, excavating the fifth heart-shaped lead urn. Image by Gaétan LeCloire/INRAP.

Heart-shaped lead urn with an inscription identifying the contents as the heart of Toussaint Perrien, Knight of Brefeillac.

December 2, 2015 — Researchers using modern imaging techniques on hearts more than 400 years old found at an archeological site were able to learn about the health conditions of the people buried there, according to a new study presented today at the 2015 meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Archaeologists with the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research excavating the basement of the Convent of the Jacobins in Rennes, France, unearthed several grave sites dating back to the late 16th or early 17th century.

Among the items unearthed in the burial vaults of elite-class families were five heart-shaped lead urns. Inside each urn was a preserved human heart. A team of radiologists, including one with a background in forensics, was called in to examine the hearts. Additional researchers, including forensic physicians, archeologists, pathologic physicians and physicists, were brought in from the Molecular Anthropology and Synthesis Imaging and the Institute of Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases.

The research team used MRI and CT to obtain clinical images of the hearts. While the images were impressive, due to the embalming materials used to preserve the hearts, very little health information could be obtained.

"We tried to see if we could get health information from the hearts in their embalmed state, but the embalming material made it difficult," said study author Fatima-Zohra Mokrane, M.D., radiologist at Rangueil Hospital at the University Hospital of Toulouse in France. "We needed to take necessary precautions to conduct the research carefully in order to get all possible information."

The research team carefully cleaned the hearts, removing the embalming material. MRI and CT scans were redone. On the new set of CT images, researchers were able to identify the different heart structures, such as chambers, valves and coronary arteries. Once the tissue was rehydrated, researchers were better able to identify myocardial muscles with MRI. Classic techniques, such as dissection, external study and histology, were also used to examine the heart tissues.

One heart appeared healthy and showed no signs of disease. Three of the hearts did show signs of disease, as plaque was found on the coronary arteries. The fifth heart had been poorly preserved and, therefore, could not be studied.

"Since four of the five hearts were very well preserved, we were able to see signs of present-day heart conditions, such as plaque and atherosclerosis," Mokrane said.

During the excavation, the archeologists and the research team also discovered that the heart of one male — later identified by an inscription on one of the lead urns as Toussaint Perrien, Knight of Brefeillac — had been removed upon his death and later buried with his wife, Louise de Quengo, Lady of Brefeillac, whose preserved body was also found at the site.

"It was common during that time period to be buried with the heart of a husband or wife," Mokrane said. "This was the case with one of our hearts. It's a very romantic aspect to the burials."

Co-authors on the study are Rozenn Colleter, Ph.D., Sylvie Duchesne, Ph.D., Ramiro Moreno, Ph.D., Anou Sewonu, Ph.D., Herve P. Rousseau, Ph.D., Eric Crubezy, M.D., Ph.D., Norbert Telmon, M.D., Ph.D., and Fabrice Dedouit, M.D., Ph.D.

Read the article “Mummy CT Scans Show No Significant Differences in Atherosclerotic Disease in Modern vs. Ancient Egyptians.”

For more information: RadiologyInfo.org

Related Content

Medtronic Announces Global Resolute Onyx DES One-Month DAPT Study
News | Antiplatelet and Anticoagulation Therapies| August 18, 2017
Medtronic plc announced a global randomized clinical trial that will evaluate one-month dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT...
ASNC and SNMMI Release Joint Document on Diagnosis, Treatment of Cardiac Sarcoidosis
News | Cardiac Imaging| August 18, 2017
August 18, 2017 — The American Society of...
Houston Methodist Hospital Enters Multi-Year Technology and Research Agreement With Siemens Healthineers
News | Cardiac Imaging| August 17, 2017
Houston Methodist Hospital and Siemens Healthineers have entered into a multi-year agreement to bring cutting-edge...
Bivalirudin exhibited an improvement in 30-day all-cause mortality when injected post PCI.
News | Antiplatelet and Anticoagulation Therapies| August 16, 2017
August 16, 2017 — A study has examined the efficacies of various post-percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) bivali
ESC 2017 late breaking trial hot line study presentations.
News | Clinical Study| August 16, 2017
Aug. 16, 2017 – The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2017 includes several Hot Line Late-breaking Clinic
News | Drug-Eluting Balloons| August 15, 2017
Surmodics Inc. announced receipt of an investigational device exemption (IDE) from the U.S. Food and Drug...
The Vascular Dynamics MobiusHD device enhances the carotid baroreceptors to reduce resistant hypertension.
News | Hypertension| August 15, 2017
Aug. 15, 2017 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Vascular Dynamics Inc.
Overlay Init