Medical mysteries

Latest study on Chile’s “Atacama Alien” reveals it has human DNA

The ongoing mystery surrounding the discovery of a 6-inch “humanoid” in the Atacama Desert generates new answers and more questions.

Thursday, May 09, 2013  
A poster from new documentary Sirius depicting the tiny human. Photo by Sirius The Movie/Facebook. A poster from new documentary Sirius depicting the tiny human. Photo by Sirius The Movie/Facebook.

 

Discovered in 2003 in the Atacama Desert, a tiny desiccated corpse set the UFO-ology world abuzz. The body’s elongated skull along with what seemed to be a fully formed skeleton that can fit in the palm of a hand, led skygazers to yell “alien” and even the most hardened of skeptics to admit something was amiss.

A preliminary study of the bones revealed that the body could not be a fetus and that the creature lived outside the womb for several years. The body also has 10 ribs not 12, a mutation never before found in human beings.

Ten years on, and we have some answers. The specimen is the subject of a documentary released last month called Sirius, for which scientists from Stanford University, C.A., were enlisted to perform a genetic study on the specimen. Results concluded that the corpse has human DNA, deflating claims that the being was beamed down to earth.

However, Dr. Garry Nolan, a professor of microbiology at Stanford and head of the study, admits that the deformities exhibited in this human are only slightly less baffling than the idea of it arriving on a tiny spacecraft.

"It's an interesting medical mystery of an unfortunate human with a series of birth defects that currently the genetics of which are not obvious," Nolan told Livescience.

"I've only scratched the surface in the analysis. But there is nothing that jumps out so far as to scream 'nonhuman.' Every nucleotide I've been able to look at is human. The jury is out regarding the mutations that cause the deformity, and there is a real discrepancy in how we account for the apparent age of the bone.”

Extensive studies of the bone age the body at around 6-years-old at time of death. This led some researchers to theorize that the creature was some kind of New World primate, until the genetic studies confirmed human DNA. How such a small and deformed human could remain alive for so long in such a remote and undeveloped part of the world remains a mystery.

In a report sent to Nolan, Dr. Ralph Lachman from UCLA School of Medicine said: "There is no known form of dwarfism that accounts for all of the anomalies seen in this specimen."

It should be noted that a few misrepresentations have been circulating the Internet regarding the mystery. First, that a certain Dr. Manchon from a radiology center in Barcelona confirmed that the body was a fetus before Nolan’s study - no study reached that end.

The second is the claim that any large conclusions can be drawn from the fact that the study could only match 91 percent of the specimen’s genes as human. On such a specimen, the missing 9 percent can be caused by a number of things, from inadequate data to degradation.

As yet, no data has been released dating the human’s death. Due to the aridity of the Atacama, the region is well suited to preserving organic remains; mummies found in the area prepared by the Chinchorro culture predate those of the ancient Egyptians.

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