Dental calculus, a calcified form of tooth plaque, can give detailed information about the diets, diseases and lifestyles of past humans. CHRISTINA WARINNER discusses how she gains new knowledge about the way human beings used to live, what they ate, and how their microbiome has evolved. Dental calculus is the richest known source of ancient DNA in the archaeological record, and it is the only part of the body that fossilizes during life. In this video, she explains how emerging technologies in genomics and proteomics are contributing to groundbreaking discoveries about past human health and diet. By combining genetic and protein data, she describes how ancient infections leave behind sufficient traces to reconstruct entire pathogen genomes, as well as a detailed snapshot of host immune response. She explains how studies of ancient dental calculus will help us understand how our microbiome has evolved and why understanding the human ancestral microbiome may shed light on current chronic health problems.
The Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (MPI-GEA) focuses on the interrelationships between natural and human-made systems, looking into the deep past and distant future to examine how humanity has driven the emergence of the Anthropocene – the geological period in which human activities began significantly impacting our planet’s climate and ecosystems – and how we can still positively influence its course.
The transdisciplinary research at MPI-GEA will bring together research areas represented by all three scientific sections of the MPG: Biology & Medicine; Chemistry, Physics and Technology; and Human Sciences. Corresponding inter- and transdisciplinary research projects concern, for example, planetary urbanisation, the global food system, and global material, energy and information flows.
Pathogens and Host Immunity in the Ancient Human Oral Cavity
Published in 2014
Ancient Teeth Reveal Clues About Microbiome Evolution
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Published in 2016
Meet the Dentist to the Dead
Published in 2015
Ancient Human Oral Plaque Preserves a Wealth of Biological Data
Published in 2014