New theory suggests Lenin died from a rare genetic brain disorder

Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist revolutionary, died from an apparent stroke at the age of 53. His untimely death has been the subject of much controversy and speculation — but new theory from UCLA may finally hold the answer.

By the time of his death in 1924, Lenin had already suffered three strokes. His rapid cognitive decline was characteristic of someone considerably older, leading historians to speculate about other factors, such as poisoning or syphilis.

But a new theory suggests that Lenin suffered from a rare genetic disorder that caused fatal stone-like calcifications to form in his brain.

This news comes to us from Discover Magazine's Neuroskeptic, who writes:

During his autopsy, it was found that the blood vessels around Lenin's brain were heavily calcified – essentially, they had hardened, and narrowed, due to a build-up of minerals and fats. This is known as atherosclerosis and, although it happens to all of us as we age, Lenin suffered from an unusually severe, and early, case. It was noted during the postmortem that tapping the vessels with a pair of metal tweezers produced a sound as if they were made of stone...

...A team of neurologists led by UCLA's Harry Vinters have suggested a possible answer in a new paper: Vessels of Stone: Lenin's "Circulatory Disturbance of the Brain". They point to a recently-discovered disorder that causes selective atherosclerosis of the blood vessels in the legs, caused by a mutation in the gene NT5E.

Vinters and his colleagues suggest that Lenin might have had a similar genetic problem, but one that affected primarily the brain. Lenin's father and siblings (seemingly) suffered circulatory diseases as well; indeed his father died at almost exactly the same age, in a similar fashion. Still, they admit that such a genetic disorder remains speculative at present.

Read more at Discovery Magazine.

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