Bea Riemschneider, Editorial Director
MaryBeth DiDonna, Editor
Editorial Advisory Board
Charles W. Berndt, C. W. Berndt Associates Ltd.
Adam Giandomenico, Particles Plus Inc.
Scott Mackler, Cleanroom Consulting LLC
Gregg A. Mosley, Biotest Laboratories Inc.
Robert Nightingale, Cleanroom Garments
Bipin Parekh, Ph. D., Entegris Inc.
Michael Rataj, Aramark Cleanroom Services
Howard Siegerman, Ph. D., Siegerman and Associates LLC
Scott Sutton, Ph. D., Microbiology Network Inc.
Art Vellutato, Jr., Veltek Associates Inc.
Bob Vermillion, CPP/Fello w, RMV Technology Group LLC
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Vol. 20 • No. 3
Cleanrooms Unlock Secrets
of the Past
Cleanrooms are used for a number of applications — pharmaceuticals, aerospace, food and beverage, manu- facturing, and more. You can also add “solving ancient mysteries” to that list.
A recent Nature Communications study, covered by Newsweek
( http://bit.ly/2rJOe3i), details how researchers analyzed DNA
from ancient Egyptian mummies to learn more about their
ancestry. The groundbreaking study examined DNA from 151
mummified Egyptians, spanning the period from about 1400
B.C. to 400 A.D., during the Roman period. The study showed
that genetic material found in the mummies resembled ancient peoples of the Near East
and the Levant (an area of the eastern Mediterranean, which includes modern-day Israel
and Palestine), rather than modern Egyptians. Genetic links were also found between
the ancient Egyptians and Neolithic peoples from modern-day Turkey and Europe —
showing that conquests by foreigners such as Alexander the Great may not have had as
significant a genetic influence on ancient Egyptians as previously thought.
Mitochondrial DNA was gathered from some of the mummies in a cleanroom facility, which was necessary to avoid contamination with modern genetic material that
might skew the results. The mummified remains were treated with UV light to remove
recently deposited DNA, and the exteriors of bones were scraped off in order to access
the precious genetic material within.
There have been plenty of other stories in Controlled Environments about cleanrooms being used to extract old and even ancient DNA in order to solve mysteries. In
May 2016, a contractor was digging in the backyard of a San Francisco family home
when he unexpectedly unearthed the casket of a young child. A UC Davis anthropology professor stepped in after it was announced that the casket of little “Miranda Eve”
would be re-buried with no analysis. Samples of the deceased’s hair were taken to a
cleanroom lab, and it was discovered that she was about 2 to 3 years of age and came
from European ancestry, most likely the British Isles. Exhaustive research into internment, burial, and genealogical records eventually narrowed the child’s identity down to
two possible candidates — living relatives for each were contacted, DNA samples were
provided and tested, and finally the child was positively identified as 2-year-old Edith
Howard Cook. See http://bit.ly/2rKa4n0 for more.
Cleanroom testing was also used after two college students stumbled upon a human
skull during a hike in Washington State in 1996. Researchers found hundreds more
bones plus an ancient spear head were found. The body — dubbed “Kennewick Man”
by scientists and “The Ancient One” by Native American tribes — had lived over
9,000 years ago. The mystery then focused on the man’s ancestry: was he of European
descent, or Native American? A dispute soon arose between the Army Corps of
Engineers and local Native American tribes regarding ownership and burial rights.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen sequenced the genome of Kennewick
Man and published their results in June 2015,
concluding that the man is closely related to
modern Native American tribes.