BY: TJ MOREY
Ozzy Osbourne—the singer of Black Sabbath from 1968 to 1979, as well as his own solo material beyond—is an enigma of sorts. A living heavy metal legend who influenced millions of people with his music, Ozzy has always been known for his rock-and-roll way of life. He was kicked out of Black Sabbath by being so consistently loaded on booze and drugs that he could barely rehearse, and has referred to 40 years of his life as a bender. How he continues to survive at the ripe age of 66 is a mystery—one that geneticists tried to solve. In 2010, a team of researchers did a full sequencing of Ozzy’s genome and studied it to understand what makes Ozzy, well, Ozzy.
The singer’s blood sample was sent to Cofactor Genomics in St. Louis, Missouri for DNA sequencing, which was later sent to Knome Inc. in Cambridge, England for genome analysis.
Ozzy has about 300,000 unique variants in his genome as well as DNA segments inherited from Neanderthals. Neither of these are particularly impressive—the novel variants are a symptom of a relatively small number of people having their full genomes sequenced at the time, whereas it’s been estimated that at least 20 per cent of Neanderthal DNA is present in modern humans. Where it gets interesting is in regards to the genes involved in drug metabolism and addiction. In Ozzy’s own words, “I’m 6.13 times more likely than the average person to have alcohol dependency or alcohol cravings…1.31 times more likely to have a cocaine addiction…and 2.6 times more likely to have hallucinations while taking cannabis.” The researchers also discovered a mutation on ADH4—a gene that has been linked to alcohol and drug abuse—which might allow Osbourne to break down alcohol more easily than an average human.
Other fun tidbits of Ozzy’s genome—as presented in a TEDMED 2010 discussion—include his oxytocin receptor predicting that he’d be a very sensitive mother, and that he has several non-functional copies of genes, most of them being odorant receptors. This means that Ozzy has a poor sense of smell regardless of the questionable substances he’s stuffed up his nose in the past half-century.
As his wife Sharon Osbourne says: “At the end of the world, there will only be cockroaches, Ozzy and Keith Richards.”