Chopin’s heart, preserved in cognac, helped determine the cause of his death

Chopin died at the age of 39. All his life he was distinguished by poor health; doctors believed that he was sick with consumption (so called tuberculosis in the 19th century). In 2008, Polish medical experts proposed another version - that the composer suffered from a pulmonary form of cystic fibrosis - a serious hereditary disease, patients with the acute form of which even today rarely live up to 30 years. The death parameters of the composer indicate this diagnosis: with a height of 170 cm, he weighed only 40 kilograms.

This year, Polish scientists studied the composer's heart, which was stored in cognac in a crystal vessel for 168 years, to clarify the diagnosis. Scientists did not open the hermetically sealed vessel, and studied its contents from photographs. What they saw is more likely to be consistent with the initial diagnosis of tuberculosis, head of the research team, Professor Michal Witt, told AFP. The results of the work of doctors are being prepared for publication in the journal American Journal of Medicine, which the MedicalXpress portal tells about them.

However, the final analysis of the possibility of cystic fibrosis is possible only by analysis of DNA extracted from heart tissue; only in this way can one establish whether the composer was a carrier of the CFTR gene mutation, which leads to the development of this disease. In 2008, the Polish Ministry of Culture rejected a request from scientists to open a vessel with Chopin’s heart. Officials feared that the procedure would destroy the artifact. Chopin is one of the most famous figures of Polish culture, and his heart, preserved in alcohol, is a valuable heritage site for Poles.

Chopin’s heart is kept in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw in a clear liquid of amber color, which experts consider cognac; after the French Revolution, this drink was most often used to conserve organs, historians say.


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