Weird 'alien' skeleton was of human foetus

Weird 'alien' skeleton was of human foetus

Over the intervening years, the skeleton, dubbed Ata, became the subject of rumors and rampant speculation, with some suggesting that it could be a form of extraterrestrial life. While the remains were found to be without a doubt human, Nolan's team had trouble explaining the odd physical appearance since the bones were as mature as that of a 6-8 year old, despite the much smaller size.

But scientists he commissioned to carry out further DNA tests have confirmed the corpse was a very unfortunate human being.

Second, Ata suffered from numerous bone disease-associated mutations.

The skeleton, dubbed Ata, was featured in TV shows and a documentary, "Sirius", in which a UFO researcher attempts to figure out Ata's origins. Something so unusual got global coverage, especially when a radiological study of the bones revealed them to be as mature as a six-year-old human's.

Though the results may be disappointing to "I want to believe" types, the complete genome sequencing has yielded fascinating insights into the medical causes of the specimen's never-before-seen deformities.

While the scientists found no evidence of alien DNA, they did find mutations in seven of the fetus's genes: COL1A1, COL2A1, KMT2D, FLNB, ATR, TRIP11 and PCNT.

Mutations in several genes appear to have caused development of a club-shaped leg bone - the femur - they said, while other mutations led to a small body length, and four other mutations caused deformities in the arm bones.

Taken together, the mutations expressed by these genes would explain all of the fetus's skeletal abnormalities, the scientists concluded.

In 2013, Garry Nolan, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University in California, suggested that the remains belonged to a human, although found it hard to determine the reason for the mutations.

The Atacama specimen. Photo credit Bhattacharya S et al.

The skeleton's freakish appearance once gave birth to rumors about it having extraterrestrial origins. They also found that the skeleton was likely less than 50 years old, and probably owed its weathered appearance to the harsh climate of the Chilean desert where it was found. But researchers determined that the skulls' unusual shapes stemmed from cultural practices that deliberately deformed the bone, similar to those seen in pre-Hispanic cultures in Central America. There were theories that it was the remains of an unidentified primate, but the popular explanation was that Ata was an alien who passed away on Earth. The researchers used a number of different data sets, including from the 1000 Genomes Project, to discover her closest genetic kin: three individuals from Andean Chile. "In isolation, a gene might have no effect. but combined with other genes, the outcomes can be dramatic". While scientists have said that the new analysis is enough to bury the Ata controversy. Researchers sought to answer it by determining the amount of degradation in her genetic material.

"Given the size of the specimen and the severity of the mutations described above, it seems likely the specimen was a preterm birth", Nolan's team wrote.

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