The new images reveal a hollow shell, with an empty cavity where a network of inner “spongy bone” should be. (This spongy bone is so named because it’s full of holes where blood vessels sneak through.)
“We do see it in human patients today,” Monge told LiveScience. “It’s exactly the same kind of process and in the same place.”
Fibrous dysplasia is caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation in the cells that produce bone, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, the tumors are small and asymptomatic. In other cases, they cause pain and weakness. Because the researchers have only an isolated rib from this particular Neanderthal, they can’t say whether his or her other bones would have been affected.
Story: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience | Photo: L. Mjeda