Cleopatra's stunner make-up cured eye disease as well
Photo: AFP/File/Adrian Dennis
Ancient Egyptians some 4,000 years ago produced the make-up used to darken and adorn eyes with lead and lead salts in mixtures that sometimes took a month to concoct, said Philippe Walter, who co-headed a team of scientists from the Louvre museum and the CNRS national research institute.
"We knew ancient Greeks and Romans too had noted the make-up had medicinal properties, but wanted to determine exactly how," he told AFP.
Contrary to widely held belief that lead is harmful, the team, using analytical chemistry, determined that "in very low doses lead does not kill cells."
Instead, it produces a molecule -- nitric oxide -- that activates the immune defence system which beats back bacteria in case of eye infection.
The research was carried out using a tiny electrode, the 10th of the size of a hair, to look at the effect of a lead chloride synthesised by the Egyptians -- laurionite -- on a single cell.
The study was released Thursday 7 January online by the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Copyright © 2019 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.