Medical experts trying to treat illnesses like malaria, heart disease, and tuberculosis are turning to an unexpected population of study subjects for answers: ancient mummies.

Thanks to recent advances in DNA sequencing and CT scan technology, researchers are able to peer more closely than ever into mummified bodies. In fact, they can even discern the cause of death for specimens now thousands of years old. But as Popular Science explains, that finding is just a means to a much more modern end: scientists hope that studying mummies can offer clues about the underlying causes of various illnesses, and how those illnesses have evolved over time. One recent study on 137 mummies, for instance, indicated that 34 percent suffered from hardening of the arteries — suggesting that genetic factors might trump lifestyle choices where heart disease is concerned.