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Ulsterman who found out how Elvis Presley really died

By Claire McNeilly

Published 04/09/2015

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Professor Stephen Kingsmore who determined his cause of death

A professor from Northern Ireland has been credited with establishing the exact cause of Elvis Presley's death - and finally putting to rest the wild conspiracy theories about how he died.

Kansas-based Stephen Kingsmore's revolutionary DNA-based findings from last year are now being accepted in medical circles as the definitive explanation as to why the 'The King' passed away, aged just 42, in August 1977.

Dr Kingsmore (54) graduated from Queen's University Belfast with a degree in medicine, surgery and obstetrics in 1985 and is now a renowned geneticist.

He analysed a sample of hair from the world's most successful singer which pointed to Presley having suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - a disease which causes the thickening of the heart and weakening of the heart muscle.

American superstar Presley displayed many of the symptoms of this disease, including an irregular heartbeat, fatigue, fainting and high blood pressure.

A junk food and prescription pills addict, he died in a bathroom at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee and, although it was officially recorded that he had died of heart failure, constant speculation about his demise has continued for nearly 40 years.

Dr Kingsmore, who will speak at the Irish Society of Human Genetics Annual Scientific Meeting at Dublin City University today, told Channel 4's Dead Famous DNA programme that the Presley results indicate it would be unfair to blame the singer's lifestyle for his death.

The former Craigavon Hospital intern added: "There has been so much speculation about cause of death, and so much ill spoken of his lifestyle, and we had this intriguing finding that possibly Elvis had a medical illness, and all of the stuff about how he killed himself with his lifestyle might have been very unfair."

Although his research on the Presley case has upped his public profile, Dr Kingsmore is already well known in medical circles.

His work as Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Missouri and Director of the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas has commanded wide respect within his profession.

While at Children's Mercy, his team has been responsible for many research breakthroughs that could have implications for newborn screening tests.

Dr Kingsmore was recently named one of Medscape's physicians of the year and has even had his work featured among Time Magazine's top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2012.

Dr Kingsmore and his team developed a rapid approach to screening which they can use to scan for 600 severe childhood diseases and provide results within four to six weeks.

They are also responsible for building a software system that allows neonatologists to look for diseases in specific regions in the genome based on the newborn's symptoms and then guide pathologists to where they should interpret results.

"I have a big research team, and part of the time we're doing pure research, trying to discover new stuff," Dr Kingsmore told Kansas City Business Journal.

"Part of the time we're working with the kids and parents to figure out causes of diseases, and that's about a 50-50 split."

He added: "For me personally, I spend half of my time here and half of my time travelling around places to tell people about what we do.

"We're one of the first in the world to do what we do, so I travel all over the world to talk about it."

Dr Kingsmore lists his hobbies as spending time with his family, reading the Bible in French, "work, more work" and "running, more running."

The geneticist is married to Fiona and has three children.

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