Elvis death 'his genetic destiny'
Published 25/03/2014 | 14:37
A Channel 4 show which attempts to sequence the DNA of historical figures from Adolf Hitler to Marilyn Monroe claims to have discovered what could have caused Elvis Presley's early death.
The controversial show, Dead Famous DNA, has already hit the headlines after it emerged that TV bosses paid Holocaust denier David Irving thousands of pounds for a lock of what was supposed to be Hitler's hair.
At an advance screening of the first episode in the new series, it was revealed that tests have also been performed on what could be bone from the Nazi leader's ribcage, while producers have discovered that the hair which they paid Irving £3,000 for had not come from the German dictator.
DNA analysis on a hair sample thought to have come from king of rock n' roll Elvis, which was bought from a friend of the singer's barber, has revealed that the Suspicious Minds singer could have suffered from a heart muscle disease.
The DNA results - analysed by Dr Stephen Kingsmore in Kansas - showed mutations, known as "variants", which cause migraines, glaucoma and obesity.
Elvis, a junk food addict who relied heavily on prescription drugs, was known to have suffered from headaches, bad eyesight and ballooned in weight towards the end of his life.
Scientists also found a "crucial" variant known to cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - a heart muscle disease which causes the thickening of the heart and weakening of the heart muscle.
Elvis displayed many of the symptoms of this disease, including an irregular heartbeat, fatigue, fainting and high blood pressure.
The star was found dead in 1977 at the age of 42 slumped in a bathroom at Graceland, his mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.
Producers said that although it was officially known that Elvis died of heart failure attack, the cause of his heart failure was still subject to speculation and had fuelled a "melting pot" of "conspiracy theories".
Dr Kingsmore, director of the Centre for Paediatric Genomic Medicine at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, described the results as "a smoking gun".
He said that the results indicate it could be unfair to blame the singer's lifestyle for his death.
Dr Kingsmore said: "There had been so much speculation about cause of death, and so much ill spoken of his lifestyle, and we had this intriguing finding that possibly Elvis had a medical illness, and all of the stuff about how he killed himself with his lifestyle might have been very unfair."
Presenter Mark Evans added: "For years, Elvis has been blamed for his own death, for overeating or overdosing on drugs.
"Both of these addictions wouldn't have helped. But it seemed Elvis had a flaw in his DNA," he said, adding that his early death may have been his "genetic destiny".
Producers wrote to Presley's daughter Lisa Marie to say that they had carried out DNA analysis but said that they have not heard back.
Evans said that they were "very, very confident" that the sample of hair had come from the singer, after spending three years doing their research.
"I'm massively confident that is Elvis' DNA but I can't prove it," he said. "I can't tell you 100% that is Elvis' DNA. That's not possible."
The show also attempts to examine the DNA of Charles Darwin and King George III, from a hair sample which turns out to be from a wig, and most controversially, Hitler.
Producers would not confirm whether the bone sample, said to be from Hitler's ribcage, turned out to be genuine and defended the decision to seek his DNA.
Results of scientific testing on the bone, which was given to the show's presenter by an unidentified man, will be revealed in later episodes.
Evans said of seeking Hitler's DNA: "There is an endless fascination historically because he was such a repugnant individual.
"But he had such an impact and everything else about that man has been pored over in minute detail.
"The one thing that no-one has ever, ever looked at is the one bit of him that he couldn't fabricate, he couldn't influence. He couldn't not change his DNA. His DNA was what he was... the DNA can't lie."