Monday, 29 November 2010

Napoleon's DNA: New Research

A recent paper by Professor Lucotte has described research on hair samples from the Emperor Napoleon, his mother, and his sister Caroline. Tests on these samples has revealed a rare variant in the sequence of the hypervariable segment (HVS1) of mitochondrial (mtDNA) , which is passed in the maternal line. The article points out that this rare variant is a mutation that has been found in only 3 of 37,000 different sequences in a database that it referenced.

The identification of this rare sequence will enable verification of Napoleonic relics, many of which may well be fake. It can also be used to test the piece of skin that Dr Guillard collected at the exhumation of Napoleon in 1840. This might just convince some conspiracy theorists that the body lying in Les Invalides is indeed that of the Emperor Napoleon.

This discovery will also lead to a revisit of the theory that Napoleon died from arsenic poisoning.

The hair tested by Professor Lucotte bore traces of a species of thistle endemic to St Helena and of mineral particles characteristic of volcanic terrains.

It contained lead, but no significant traces of arsenic.

Apparently Professor Lucotte will soon address this issue in another paper.

Further background may be found in a recent article by Jacques Macé .

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