Scientists to seek genetic clues in ‘modern miracle’ of Ozzy Osbourne’s survival
ST. LOUIS — He is famous for many things. For his eerie rock star scream. For biting the head off a bat.
But, mostly, Ozzy Osbourne has become famous for indulging in decades of near-legendary substance abuse — abuse that would vanquish most — and surviving.
Now scientists could find out why.
Though the “Godfather of Heavy Metal” may not be heading to St. Louis during his current world tour, his genes are. Sometime this month, some of Osbourne’s DNA will be sent to St. Louis-based Cofactor Genomics, where researchers will sequence Osbourne’s genome — or map his genetic blueprint.
“They’re taking someone who’s healthy, who should have disease, and looking at that,” explained Jon Armstrong, Cofactor’s chief marketing officer. “What’s in the DNA, and what does it have that others don’t have?”
In other words: Why is the self-dubbed Prince of Darkness still alive?
Osbourne has called his existence a “modern miracle,” and despite the rocker’s mumbling and shaking, amply on display during his reality television show “The Osbournes,” he remains remarkably intact. In recent years, he has reportedly sobered up and even become something of a health nut.
Earlier this year, Osbourne approached Knome, a company in Cambridge, Mass., to have his genome mapped. Knome, which specializes in interpreting genomes to find links to disease, tapped Cofactor to do the actual sequencing of the genome — the legwork before the interpretation begins.
“His people were interested in finding out what whole genome sequencing could help them understand in terms of one’s health outlook,” said Nathan Pearson, director of research at Knome. “It’s a publicity coup for us.”
But it also will shed some meaningful scientific light.
Knome has been hired to sequence the genome of about 50 commercial clients.
“It’s the sort of people who are rich aficionados of technology, or people who have an urgent need because of some health reason,” Pearson said, noting that the cost is about $40,000.
Osbourne is slightly different. He is trying to find out why he has lasted, not what could kill him.
“Ozzy’s interested in knowing more about something he already knows about himself,” Pearson said.
Pearson noted that it’s unlikely that researchers will find the precise reason Osbourne has tolerated his diet of alcohol and drugs: “Are we going to be able to discover how Ozzy has been able to lead such an aggressive lifestyle? I want to tamp down expectations of that, in terms of the overall benefits to humanity of sequencing Ozzy.”
But there’s a chance that Osbourne’s genome could yield some important leads.
“Maybe we will find a new variant in a gene that’s expressed in Ozzy’s liver, and that gene may already be implicated in detoxifying some class of drugs,” Pearson said. “Finding that may not be a smoking gun in figuring out what makes Ozzy tick, but it might be something that a scientist can follow up on.”