Ozzy Osbourne, the former Black Sabbath front man known as “The Prince of Darkness,” has had his genome sequenced and analyzed. The British heavy metal icon, who became famous as much for his prodigious drug and alcohol abuse as well as his music, said having his genome sequenced could offer clues about why he’s still alive. Osborne appeared at TEDMED 2010 in San Diego today to present the findings.
Why Ozzy had his genome sequenced
Ozzy Osbourne’s genome was sequenced by Missouri bioscience firm Cofactor Genomics and analyzed by Knome, Inc. Jorge Conde of Knome told CNN that Osbourne wanted to learn about his ancestry and wanted insight after a recent diagnosis of a condition similar to Parkinson’s. However, Osbourne had a more characteristic explanation. In an Oct. 24 guest column for the Sunday Times, Osbourne said “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.”
Bringing out the Neanderthal in Ozzy
Osbourne did learn something about his ancestry after sequencing his genome. Scientific American reports that geneticists found a “little segment” on Osbourne’s 10th chromosome that indicates one of his distant ancestors was a Neanderthal. Years ago, discovering Neanderthal DNA in anyone’s genome — except for Osbourne’s perhaps — would have been shocking. But earlier this year researchers sequencing Neanderthal DNA found that about 1 to 4 percent of the DNA in non-Africans today comes from Neanderthals. Osbourne was “tickled” to learn of his caveman blood.
Ozzy wins the genetic lottery
Osbourne’s ability to emerge from years of substance abuse alive could be tied to a gene in his DNA sequence that makes a protein radically different than that produced by most people. Osbourne also has an unusual variant near one of the alcohol dehydrogenase genes involved with metabolizing alcohol that may explain why his body has held up more than would be expected in other people. A Knome scientist summed things up unscientifically, saying “He’s a 61-year-old healthy guy, and that speaks for itself. That suggests he’s done OK in the genetic lottery.”