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Home / Pop Culture / Stupid Stuff / The Human Genome Project Scans Ozzy’s DNA. It’s not a Joke!
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The Human Genome Project Scans Ozzy’s DNA. It’s not a Joke!

DR OZZY gets his DNA Scanned

ozzy-mutant the human genome project scans ozzy's dna to study The Human Genome Project Scans Ozzy's DNA. It's not a Joke! ozzy mutantIn the continuing quest to understand why Ozzy Osbourne is still alive, scientists have finally unravelled the singer’s most microscopic mystery: his genes.  The Prince of Darkness has been convinced by scientists to embark on a quest to find out if science could explain how he survived his 40-year avalanche of drugs and alcohol.  Osbourne’s resilience piqued the interest of Knome, Inc., a genomics company that decided to sequence the “full Ozzy genome.”  [1] Reps for a genetics firm called Knome approached the Black Sabbath frontman in 2007, asking if he’d consider joining Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and DNA co-discoverer James Watson as one of the few human beings to have had their individual genomes sequenced. Osbourne finally consented and became one of a handful of people in the world to have his entire DNA mapped in 2010. The procedure was in part sponsored by The Sunday Times of London, which had already caused an international fururoe by appointing Ozzy Osbourne its star health advice columnist. The newpaper argued that Ozzy’s mutliple near-death experiences, 40-year history of drug abuse, and extreme hypocondria qualified him more than any other for the job. The column was an overnight hit, being quickly picked up by Rolling Stone to give it a global audience of millions. In TRUST ME, I’M DR. OZZY, Ozzy answers reader’s questions with his outrageous wit and surprising wisdom, digging deep into his past to tell the memoir-style survival stories never published before-and offer guidance that no sane human being should follow. Part humor, part memoir, and part bad advice, in latest book TRUST ME, I’M DR. OZZY include some of the best material from his published columns, answers to celebrities’ medical questions.  In early July 2010, Scientists took a sample of the singer’s blood at his home in Buckinghamshire and sending it to a lab in New Jersey in the U.S.  Cofactor Genomics, a Saint Louis–based company, sequenced Osbourne’s genome; Knome, Inc., which also helped raise money for the project, analyzed the data. [2] For his part, Osbourne was at first skeptical about the project, he explained in his October 24 Sunday Times of London column. The only Gene I know anything about is the one in Kiss” [3].   But Ozzy quickly came around his hesitations when the originator of the project, a man identified only as “Chris,” convinced him the results could help explain how he survived 40 years of intense drug and alcohol abuse and all the ill-advised antics that go along with it. But the platinum-record artist then began to wonder if he, in fact, might have something to offer science. Ozzy then wrote in his column:

I was curious.  Given the swimming pools of booze I’ve guzzled over the years—not to mention all of the cocaine, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rohypnol…you name it—there’s really no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive. Maybe my DNA could say why. [4]

But what can a bunch of genetic code tell us about someone’s propensity to become the ordained “Godfather of Heavy Metal” or to bite the head off a live bat on stage? Scientific American spoke with Jorge Conde, co-founder and chief executive of Cambridge, Mass.–based Knome, and Nathan Pearson, the company’s director of research, who had sat down with Ozzy earlier to go over the results of the analysis. Ozzy and his wife Sharon Osbourne has also relay some of the results—more “Down to Earth” than via “Ozzmosis” at the prestigious  TEDMED 2010 meeting in San Diego, making headlines around the world.

Why Do You Think Ozzy Osbourne Survived That Long?

[myo_poll  poll=12169  type=”bar”  perc=”yes”]

Biological Sciences Confirms that Ozzy Osbourne Really is a Genetic Mutant

ozzy-osbourne-genetic-mutan the human genome project scans ozzy's dna to study The Human Genome Project Scans Ozzy's DNA. It's not a Joke! ozzy osbourne genetic mutanIt was a highly complex, $65,000 process, but  now that the “Full Osbourne Genome” has been sequenced, the truth is out: the former lead singer of Black Sabbath is a genetic mutant.  [5] We cannot find the “Ozzy Osbourne” gene. But what we did see, as one of our scientists refers to it, is a lot of interesting smoke—but not any specific fire, said geneticist Nathaniel Pearson, who sequenced the rocker’s genome, including variants that could impact how Osbourne’s body absorbs methamphetamines and other recreational drugs. [6] “It’s going to be a while before we get enough data as a society to understand those variants.”  Pearson said.  [7] Nobody was surprized to learn that the biggest differences in Osbourne’s genes compared to other people is how he processes drugs and booze.  In fat, it was the underlying premisse all along.  “I’ve always said that at the end of the world there will be roaches, Ozzy and Keith Richards,” Osbourne’s wife Sharon Osbourne, said at Friday’s conference. “He’s going to outlive us all. That fascinated me — how his body can endure so much.”  [8]  Here the perspective in which Pearson analysed the results:

I talked with Ozzy, and we looked at the genome with an eye toward the nerves. If you think about what makes Ozzy unusual, it’s that he’s a world-class musician, he has an addictive personality, he has a tremor, he’s dyslexic, he gets up very early in the morning. And many of these can be traced back to the nervous system. [9]

Not surprisingly, the most notable differences in Osbourne’s genes had to do with how he processes drugs and alcohol. Genes connected to addiction, alcoholism and the absorption of marijuana, opiates and methamphetamines all had unique variations in Osbourne, a few of which Knome geneticists had never seen before.  “He had a change on the regulatory region of the ADH4 gene, a gene associated with alcoholism, that we’ve never seen before,” Conde told ABCnews.com. “He has an increased predisposition for alcohol dependence of something like six times higher. [10] Nevertheless, this ‘unusual variant’ which could have helped Osbourne survive during the years when he drank up to four bottles of Cognac a day. [11]  He also had a slight increased risk for cocaine addiction, but he dismissed that. He said that if anyone has done as much cocaine he had, they would have been hooked.”  The Prince of Darkness also a 2.6-times increased chance for hallucinations associated with marijuana, though Osbourne said he wouldn’t know if that were true because he so rarely smoked marijuana without other drugs also in his system.  Ironically, Osbourne’s genes suggest that he is a slow metabolizer of coffee, meaning that he would be more affected by caffeine. “Turns out that Ozzy’s kryptonite is caffeine,” Conde said. Conde and Pearson particularly were interested in looking at Osbourne’s nervous system and nervous function, given the musician’s lifestyle and his recent experience of Parkinson’s-like tremors. [12]  A functioning change to the singer’s TTN gene, which has been linked to the nervous system, may be connected to Osbourne’s hearing or to his tremors. “Here’s a guy who’s rocking heavy metal for decades and he can still hear,” said Jorge Conde, Knome’s chief executive. “It would be interesting to know if this gene may impact that. [Or] his Parkinsonian tremor – it’s hard to know if that is from his genes or from years of hard living.” [13].  On top of all of that, there is one more “strange variance” in Ozzy’s genetic makeup:

One variant involves a gene that makes CLTCL1, which is a really interesting protein. When a cell takes in things from the outside membrane, it pulls itself in like a basket to pull things in. It does this in all kinds of cells, including nerve cells. He has two copies of an unusual variant that makes a grossly different version of the protein than most people produce. Here’s a gene that’s central to how nerve cells communicate with each other, so it’s curious to us to see a grossly different protein variant. It’s thought provoking [14]

Pearson said that he didn’t find anything that can explain to you from point A to point B why Ozzy can think up good songs or why he is so addicted to cocaine, but  overall, it seems that Ozzy inherited a pretty good genetics, Pearson said:

He’s a 61-year-old healthy guy, and that speaks for itself. That suggests he’s done okay in the genetic lottery. [15]

Ozzy has DNA from the Neanderthal… and Steven Colbert

ozzy-neanderthal-colbert the human genome project scans ozzy's dna to study The Human Genome Project Scans Ozzy's DNA. It's not a Joke! ozzy neanderthal colbertFurthermore, Osbourne’s got a genetic sliver that once belonged to homo sapiens’ extinct cousins, the Neanderthals.  According to the analysis, Osbourne has about 300,000 novel variants, a figure similar to that of other newly sequenced genomes. (The number of novel variants discovered per genome will fall as more people are sequenced.) Analysis of his mitochondrial DNA, inherited from his mother, revealed that Osbourne shared a common ancestor with Stephen Colbert about 1,000 years ago. [16]  The rocker also learned that, like most people of European descent, he has some some DNA segments inherited from Neandertals.  For a long time we thought that Neandertals didn’t have any descendents today, but it turns out that Asians and Europeans have some evidence of Neandertal lineage—like a drop in the bucket. We found a little segment on Ozzy’s chromosome 10 that very likely traces back to a Neandertal forebearer.  “For fun, we did the same analysis for George Church,” says Conde. Church, a pioneer in DNA sequencing, Harvard professor, and one of Knome’s cofounders, “had three times as much Neandertal DNA. [17]  The then 61-year-old hellraiser, who has survived years of drug abuse and alcohol addiction, joked that news of his Neanderthal heritage would not come ‘as much of a surprise’ to his wife Sharon or to police departments around the world. [18]

Ozzy’s Roman Ancestry

The researchers discovered that the star shares some DNA with the ancient Romans who were killed in Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.  Osbourne said: ‘That means I’m also probably related to some of the survivors, which makes a lot of sense. ‘If any of the Roman Osbournes drank nearly as much as I used to, they wouldn’t have even felt the lava. They could have just walked it off.’ [19]

 The Answer of the Riddle: Why the Hell is he Still Alive?

Ozzy-Osbourne- the human genome project scans ozzy's dna to study The Human Genome Project Scans Ozzy's DNA. It's not a Joke! Ozzy OsbourneHe famously bit the head off a bat while drunk on stage, broke his neck in a quad bike accident in 2003 and has admitted there’s ‘no plausible reason’ why he is still alive.  [20] The findings best demonstrate how easy it is to create a narrative out of a genome, especially one belonging to someone with as colorful a personality as Ozzy’s. But Dr. Nathan got it right when he explained his own theory for how the musician has survived thus far:

Look, Mr. Osbourne, after studying your history, taking your blood, extracting your genes from the white cells, making them readable, sequencing them, analysing and interpreting the data using some of the most advanced technology available in the world today–and of course comparing your DNA against all the current research in the US National Library of Medicine, not to mention the 18th revision of the public human reference genome–I think I can say with a good deal of confidence why you’re still alive.  [21]

I looked at him. He looked at me. “Go on, then,” I said. “Spit it out.” “Sharon,” he replied. [22]

——————————————————
[1] Post Wire Report, New study shows rocker Ozzy Osbourne is a genetic mutant: report, nypost.com, November 3, 2010 | 5:11pm
[2] Katherine Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage, ScientificAmerican, Oct 26, 2010
[3] Emily Singer, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome.  Genome sequencing makes its move into pop culture, technologyreview.com, October 25, 2010
[4] Katherine Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage, ScientificAmerican, Oct 26, 2010
[5] Courtney Hutchison, Ozzy Osbourne Is a Genetic Mutant, ABCNews, Nov. 3, 2010; Post Wire Report, New study shows rocker Ozzy Osbourne is a genetic mutant: report, nypost.com, November 3, 2010 | 5:11pm
[6] Katherine Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage, ScientificAmerican, Oct 26, 2010
[7] Sean Michaels, Ozzy Osbourne genome sequenced, The Guardian, Friday 5 November 2010 11.30 GMT
[8] Sean Michaels, Ozzy Osbourne genome sequenced, The Guardian, Friday 5 November 2010 11.30 GMT
[9] Katherine Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage, ScientificAmerican, Oct 26, 2010
[10] Post Wire Report, New study shows rocker Ozzy Osbourne is a genetic mutant: report, nypost.com, November 3, 2010 | 5:11pm
[11] Arthur Martin, We’ve all suspected, now it’s official: Ozzy Osbourne IS a Neanderthal,  DailyMail, 11:55 GMT, 25 October 2010
[12] Courtney Hutchison, Ozzy Osbourne Is a Genetic Mutant, ABCNews, Nov. 3, 2010
[13] Sean Michaels, Ozzy Osbourne genome sequenced, The Guardian, Friday 5 November 2010 11.30 GMT
[14] Katherine Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage, ScientificAmerican, Oct 26, 2010
[15] Katherine Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage, ScientificAmerican, Oct 26, 2010
[15] Emily Singer, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome.  Genome sequencing makes its move into pop culture, technologyreview.com, October 25, 2010
[16] Emily Singer, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome.  Genome sequencing makes its move into pop culture, technologyreview.com, October 25, 2010
[17] Katherine Harmon, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage, ScientificAmerican, Oct 26, 2010
[18] Arthur Martin, We’ve all suspected, now it’s official: Ozzy Osbourne IS a Neanderthal,  DailyMail, 11:55 GMT, 25 October 2010
[19] Arthur Martin, We’ve all suspected, now it’s official: Ozzy Osbourne IS a Neanderthal,  DailyMail, 11:55 GMT, 25 October 2010
[20] Arthur Martin, We’ve all suspected, now it’s official: Ozzy Osbourne IS a Neanderthal,  DailyMail, 11:55 GMT, 25 October 2010
[21] Emily Singer, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome.  Genome sequencing makes its move into pop culture, technologyreview.com, October 25, 2010
[22] Emily Singer, Ozzy Osbourne’s Genome.  Genome sequencing makes its move into pop culture, technologyreview.com, October 25, 2010

About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.