Analysis of dinosaur bone cells confirms ancient protein preservation

Oct 23, 2012
T.rex (B), B. canadensis (E) and ostrich osteocytes (H) showing positive response to propidium iodide, a DNA intercalating dye. Credit: Dr. Mary Schweitzer, NC State University

A team of researchers from North Carolina State University and the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has found more evidence for the preservation of ancient dinosaur proteins, including reactivity to antibodies that target specific proteins normally found in bone cells of vertebrates. These results further rule out sample contamination, and help solidify the case for preservation of cells – and possibly DNA – in ancient remains.

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences with a joint appointment at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, first discovered what appeared to be preserved soft tissue in a 67-million-year-old in 2005. Subsequent research revealed similar preservation in an even older (about 80-million-year-old)Brachylophosaurus canadensis. In 2007 and again in 2009, Schweitzer and colleagues used chemical and molecular analyses to confirm that the fibrous material collected from the specimens was collagen.

Schweitzer's next step was to find out if the star-shaped within the fibrous matrix were osteocytes, or . Using techniques including microscopy, histochemistry and , Schweitzer demonstrates that these cellular structures react to specific antibodies, including one – a known as PHEX – that is found in the osteocytes of living birds. The findings appear online in Bone and were presented last week at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

"The PHEX finding is important because it helps to rule out sample contamination," Schweitzer says. "Some of the antibodies that we used will react to proteins found in other vertebrate cells, but none of the antibodies react to microbes, which supports our theory that these structures are surviving osteocytes. Additionally, the antibody to PHEX will only recognize and bind to one specific site only found in mature bone cells from birds. These antibodies don't react to other proteins or cells. Because so many other lines of evidence support the dinosaur/bird relationship, finding these proteins helps make the case that these structures are dinosaurian in origin."

Schweitzer and her team also tested for the presence of DNA within the cellular structures, using an antibody that only binds to the "backbone" of DNA. The antibody reacted to small amounts of material within the "cells" of both the T. rex and the B. canadensis. To rule out the presence of microbes, they used an antibody that binds histone proteins, which bind tightly to the DNA of everything except microbes, and got another positive result. They then ran two other histochemical stains which fluoresce when they attach to DNA molecules. Those tests were also positive. These data strongly suggest that the DNA is original, but without sequence data, it is impossible to confirm that the DNA is dinosaurian.

"The data thus far seem to support the theory that these structures can be preserved over time," Schweitzer says. "Hopefully these findings will give us greater insight into the processes of evolutionary change."

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rod_russell_9
1.5 / 5 (8) Oct 23, 2012
I see, so they really think they have 67 million year old soft tissue and dna. Have they actually dated the soft tissue? If so, how?
HannesAlfven
2 / 5 (7) Oct 24, 2012
My own personal hope is that the ages which result from these dating techniques are not treated in a dogmatic way, as if they cannot possibly be wrong. A slight sidereal component has been observed to radioactive decay rates. That would seem to naturally open the door to the possibility that highly energetic events might dramatically alter these dates.

There has to be room for those of us who believe in the scientific method to nevertheless question the accuracy and methodologies associated with the dating techniques. If science decides to abandon those who believe in the methodology of science, but who nevertheless remain open-minded on the accuracy of the dating techniques, it is very possible that a reckoning is simply being pushed off to a later date.

It's truly a matter of how many assumptions that a person is comfortable with making. And that is a shade of gray which exists *within* the boundaries of scientific discourse.
bigpighodges
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 24, 2012
Brilliant science - but why deny the evidence that this specimen is clearly not millions of years old? Ooops sorry, it does rather turn evolutionary ideas about dinos on it's head doesn't it? I thought science was meant to be open minded, not driven by ideology!
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 24, 2012
but why deny the evidence that this specimen is clearly not millions of years old

Which would be...?

The stuff was found INSIDE the remains of the specimens. Unless you have a good explanation how avian collagen fibers end up there that were not part of the original specimen. Do you?

Anyhow, contamination is still an issue. That's why they say quite clearly:
Those tests were also positive. These data strongly suggest that the DNA is original, but without sequence data, it is impossible to confirm that the DNA is dinosaurian.

It's a good indicator. Not proof. It's one of those things that make you say: "this should be further investigated via DNA sequencing."

One step at a time.
electroeric
1.3 / 5 (12) Oct 24, 2012
("The data thus far seem to support the theory that these structures can be preserved over time,") are you trying to tell me this guy thinks the dna lived millions of years? Millions of years is the religon of athiests who will baltantly disreguard evedence of a young earth which prooves creation. This has reinforced my belief in a creator. So thanks blind physacists. Im no scientist but even I can interpret (by this study) that dinosaurs lived and walked with man within the last 6000 years. I'm Glad im free to think and speek freely. Unlike you bondslaves to a lie called evolution. If you dont see the obvious stupidity of this above statement your no scientist your a evolutionist zelot who refuses to accept the findings of your own study. Rather than believe these dinosaurs were alive recent enough to leave dna preserved. This guy is trying to say we just havent figured out how this dna lasted millions of years? Incredulous.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (11) Oct 24, 2012
are you trying to tell me this guy thinks the dna lived millions of years

He's talking about collagen/osteocytes.
In order for something NOT to survive this time it needs to be decomposed by some process (heat, bacetria, acids, ...) .
If it's preserved under conditions that excluded these factors (e.g. fossilized within the bone marrow matrix) - why not?

This has reinforced my belief in a creator.

You don't need reinforcement in a belief. If you believe you'll do so regardless of whther it meshes with reality or not. And obviously you have long abandoned reality in favor of fantasy.

I'm Glad im free to think and speek freely.

Sure. But 'freely' does not mean that you're right. Insane people speak freely. You're just one of them.

If you dont see the obvious stupidity of this above statement

...then you haven't bothered learning anything much (least of all any science). Denying something you know nothing of is not very convincing.
Anda
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2012
What's that today? League of creationists strike back?
What a patience @Antalias!!
smorynski
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 24, 2012
As a creationist, I don't mind them doing the dino/bird science. Seems a waste of time to me and resources. But it would be nice to allow a younger age to be proposed and tested and researched. Seems like a very valid branch of science that has yet to be academically proposed and studied. Especially with these findings. That is... if 'nice' is part of the Evolutionists's lexicon.
antialias_physorg
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 24, 2012
Seems a waste of time to me and resources.

Figuring out whether the dino-to-bird theory is good is a waste of money and resources?

But it would be nice to allow a younger age to be proposed and tested

Then propose a test for it. What's stopping you?
Anyone can go to university and get a degree. Go ahead.

But I think you're mistaking what these guys and girls do: They don't set out to find that fossils are millions of years old.

They us a method that dates things directly (e.g. radiometric dating methods) but also indirect methods (because if you find a fossil in a certain layer it's pretty likely that the fossil was laid down when the layer formed.)

THEN they aply these methods. THEN they read the numbers that come out and that's where the millions of years come from.

Creationists have it backwards. They think they know the solution and just want to find coroboration for that result. That's not how science works.
rockwolf1000
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2012
("The data thus far seem to support the theory that these structures can be preserved over time,") So thanks blind physacists. Im no scientist but even I can interpret (by this study) that dinosaurs lived and walked with man within the last 6000 years. Incredulous.

You can add intelligent and a good speller to list of things you are not.
MarkyMark
5 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2012
("The data thus far seem to support the theory that these structures can be preserved over time,") So thanks blind physacists. Im no scientist but even I can interpret (by this study) that dinosaurs lived and walked with man within the last 6000 years. Incredulous.

You can add intelligent and a good speller to list of things you are not.

Perhaps an intelliget creator forgot to provide a family braincelll or perhaps someone else was using it at the time?