Western doctoral student makes mummified mice to better understand ancient diseases

August 18, 2016

Jennifer Willoughby, a doctoral student in bioarchaeology at Western University's Department of Anthropology studies cancer in mummified remains. To help her better identify what a mummified tumor looks like, Willoughby created her own mummies.

Using mice with and without tumors, she recreated natural mummification, as well as ancient Egyptian mummification techniques. Using a CT scanner, Willoughby was then able to clearly identify the tumours in the mummified mice.

These findings will help Willoughby and others researchers as they identify tumors in Ancient Egyptian mummies, providing a better understanding of disease in the ancient world.

Willoughby’s work, co-authored by Casey Kirkpatrick (a Western Anthropology graduate student) Andrew Nelson (Western Anthropology) and Jim Koropatnick (London Regional Cancer Centre) was presented to the 9th World Congress on Mummy Studies, Lima, Peru, August 11, 2016.

The presentation and findings were covered by Popular Science (How Mummifying mice will help push study of ancient cancers) and Science (To study ancient cancer, this scientist made her own mummies).