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Harris lines revisited: prevalence, comorbidities, and possible etiologies


Papageorgopoulou, C; Suter, S K; Rühli, Frank J; Siegmund, F (2011). Harris lines revisited: prevalence, comorbidities, and possible etiologies. American Journal of Human Biology, 23(3):381-391.

Abstract

Objectives: The occurrence of transverse radiopaque lines in long bones—Harris lines (HLs)—is correlated with episodes of temporary arrest of longitudinal growth and has been used as an indicator of health and nutritional status of modern and historical populations. However, the interpretation of HLs as a stress indicator remains debatable. The aim of this article is to evaluate the perspectives and the limitations of HLs analyses and to examine their reliability as a stress indicator.Methods: The study was conducted on 241 tibiae from a medieval Swiss skeletal material and was carried out using a standardized, semiautomated HL detection and analysis tool developed by the authors. We compared four different age-at-formation estimation methods and analyzed the correlation of HL occurrence to life expectancy, mean-age-at-death, stature, tibia length, and metabolic disorders as expressed by linear enamel hypoplasia and hypothyroidism.Results: The evaluation of the age-at-formation estimation methods showed statistical significant differences. Therefore, a mathematical framework for the conversion between the methods has been developed. Remodeling had eliminated about half of the HLs formed during adolescence, and a further half of the remaining ones during early adulthood, whereas no association between the aforementioned conditions and HL prevalence could be determined. The peaks of high HL frequency among various populations were found to parallel normal growth spurts and growth hormone secretion.Conclusions: We suggest a reconsideration of HLs as more of a result of normal growth and growth spurts, rather than a pure outcome of nutritional or pathologic stress.

Abstract

Objectives: The occurrence of transverse radiopaque lines in long bones—Harris lines (HLs)—is correlated with episodes of temporary arrest of longitudinal growth and has been used as an indicator of health and nutritional status of modern and historical populations. However, the interpretation of HLs as a stress indicator remains debatable. The aim of this article is to evaluate the perspectives and the limitations of HLs analyses and to examine their reliability as a stress indicator.Methods: The study was conducted on 241 tibiae from a medieval Swiss skeletal material and was carried out using a standardized, semiautomated HL detection and analysis tool developed by the authors. We compared four different age-at-formation estimation methods and analyzed the correlation of HL occurrence to life expectancy, mean-age-at-death, stature, tibia length, and metabolic disorders as expressed by linear enamel hypoplasia and hypothyroidism.Results: The evaluation of the age-at-formation estimation methods showed statistical significant differences. Therefore, a mathematical framework for the conversion between the methods has been developed. Remodeling had eliminated about half of the HLs formed during adolescence, and a further half of the remaining ones during early adulthood, whereas no association between the aforementioned conditions and HL prevalence could be determined. The peaks of high HL frequency among various populations were found to parallel normal growth spurts and growth hormone secretion.Conclusions: We suggest a reconsideration of HLs as more of a result of normal growth and growth spurts, rather than a pure outcome of nutritional or pathologic stress.

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21 citations in Web of Science®
23 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Informatics
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Anatomy
Dewey Decimal Classification:000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:20 Oct 2011 14:37
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 09:14
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1042-0533
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.21155
PubMed ID:21387459
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:3824

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