Researchers have found the fossil of a man killed in the eruption of Vesuvius, which has preserved brain cells. The structure of brain cells, despite the presence of the black, glassy substance in the human brain, was still noticeable. Researchers say the substance is part of his brain. The glass was transformed by extreme heat and rapid cooling.
“According to the results of the study, the process of glass transformation took place in Herculaneum – the victim’s neural structures froze and he came to us intact,” said study author Pier Paolo Petron.
Herculaneum was an ancient Roman city that was destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius about 2,000 years ago. Clouds of hot ashes and gases buried Herculaneum along with its famous neighbor, Pompeii.
This hot ash, along with burying the city, heated the organic matter very quickly. Etron and his colleagues found a glassy black substance in the cracked and burnt skull of a young man lying face down on a bed at Augusta College.
The researchers analyzed the samples and found tiny spherical and cylindrical structures that closely resembled neurons and axons.
The diameter of cylindrical structures is just 550-830 nanometers, therefore, due to their size, they can not be capillaries. In spherical structures, the membrane and filaments are preserved, as are the tiny vesicles. The team found that the samples were rich in carbon and oxygen, meaning they were organic.
The researchers also began studying the proteins found in the samples and found that all of them are found in brain tissue. For example, protein ATP6VIF is involved in the transfer of chemicals between synapses.