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Intact red blood cells recovered from Ötzi the Iceman

Researchers working on the 5,300-year-old frozen mummy named Ötzi the Iceman have recovered the oldest red bloods cells ever found from a tissue sample taken from an arrow wound in his shoulder.

Zink and his colleagues took tissue samples from Ötzi’s arrow wound and from an earlier wound on the mummy’s hand. Using a light microscope, they identified round objects that looked a bit like red blood cells, Zink said. But to be sure, the researchers needed more advanced technology.

They turned to a device called an atomic force microscope, which works by “feeling” rather than “seeing” an object. The minuscule probe, itself invisible to the naked eye, runs over the object like a needle on a record player. As the probe bumps up and down along the object’s contours, a laser measures the movement. The result is a three-dimensional “tracing” of the object.

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Story: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience | Photo: Samadelli Marco/EURAC

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