Send to

Choose Destination
Anal Chem. 2010 Jan 15;82(2):457-60. doi: 10.1021/ac902348g.

Finding out egyptian gods' secret using analytical chemistry: biomedical properties of egyptian black makeup revealed by amperometry at single cells.

Author information

UMR CNRS 8640 PASTEUR and LIA CNRS XiamENS NanoBioChem, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Département de Chimie, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 24 Rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.


Lead-based compounds were used during antiquity as both pigments and medicines in the formulation of makeup materials. Chemical analysis of cosmetics samples found in Egyptians tombs and the reconstitution of ancient recipes as reported by Greco-Roman authors have shown that two non-natural lead chlorides (laurionite Pb(OH)Cl and phosgenite Pb(2)Cl(2)CO(3)) were purposely synthesized and were used as fine powders in makeup and eye lotions. According to ancient Egyptian manuscripts, these were essential remedies for treating eye illness and skin ailments. This conclusion seems amazing because today we focus only on the well-recognized toxicity of lead salts. Here, using ultramicroelectrodes, we obtain new insights into the biochemical interactions between lead(II) ions and cells, which support the ancient medical use of sparingly soluble lead compounds. Submicromolar concentrations of Pb(2+) ions are shown to be sufficient for eliciting specific oxidative stress responses of keratinocytes. These consist essentially of an overproduction of nitrogen monoxide (NO degrees ). Owing to the biological role of NO degrees in stimulating nonspecific immunological defenses, one may argue that these lead compounds were deliberately manufactured and used in ancient Egyptian formulations to prevent and treat eye illnesses by promoting the action of immune cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Chemical Society
Loading ...
Support Center