Ode to Genomics


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and thanks to Richard Perlmutter.

Ludwig van Beethoven is known for his classical music AND his hearing loss. Before he died, he requested his health issues be made public and investigated. What can modern research conclude about Beethoven’s condition?

Tristan Begg and colleagues at the University of Cambridge investigated this TWO-hundred year old mystery.

They extracted DNA from Beethoven’s iconic hair.  With this DNA, they listed the sequence of letters unique to Beethoven’s genes. The team then compared Beethoven’s genes to known gene mutations that cause certain diseases. 

Turns out Beethoven had high genetic risk for liver scarring. They also found traces of Hepatitis B, an infectious liver disease. 

These findings paint a plausible picture of Beethoven’s severe health problems leading to his death. It also might lead to the use of similar technology to investigate diseases of other historical figures.

Who knew Beethoven’s final contribution would be an ode to… genomics?!


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