FW: Can Ancient Dinosaur Tissue be recovered and analysed?

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2010-02-05 00:13:23

It would seem so…. From: Damian Sheeran [mailto:damian@celtictiger.p…] Sent: 04 February 2010 19:40To: Andrew JohnsonSubject: resend ref protein findings in dinosaur fossils Mary Higby Schweitzer has opened a real can of worms:See this article for one of the first publications in the MSM (from 2006)Two years ago, Schweitzer gazed through a microscope in her laboratory at North Carolina State University and saw lifelike tissue that had no business inhabiting a fossilized dinosaur skeleton: fibrous matrix, stretchy like a wet scab on human skin; what appeared to be supple bone cells, their three-dimensional shapes intact; and translucent blood vessels that looked as if they could have come straight from an ostrich at the zoo.  By all the rules of paleontology, such traces of life should have long since drained from the bones. It’s a matter of faith among scientists that soft tissue can survive at most for a few tens of thousands of years, not the 65 million since T. rex walked what’s now the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. But Schweitzer tends to ignore such dogma. She just looks and wonders, pokes and prods, following her scientific curiosity. That has allowed her to see things other paleontologists have missed—and potentially to shatter fundamental assumptions about how much we can learn from the past. If biological tissue can last through the fossilization process, it could open a window through time, showing not just how extinct animals evolved but how they lived each day. “Fossils have richer stories to tell—about the lub-dub of dinosaur life—than we have been willing to listen to,” says Robert T. Bakker, curator of paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. “This is one spectacular proof of that.”  At the same time, the contents of those T. rex bones have also electrified some creationists, who interpret Schweitzer’s findings as evidence that Earth is not nearly as old as scientists claim. “I invite the reader to step back and contemplate the obvious,” wrote Carl Wieland on the Answers in Genesis Web site last year. “This discovery gives immensely powerful support to the proposition that dinosaur fossils are not millions of years old at all, but were mostly fossilized under catastrophic conditions a few thousand years ago at most.”   Rhetoric like this has put Schweitzer at the center of a raging cultural controversy, because she is not just a pioneering paleontologist but also an evangelical Christian. That fact alone has prompted some prominent paleontologists to be even more skeptical about her scientific research. Some creationists have questioned her work from the other direction, pressing her to refute Darwinian evolution. But in her religious life, Schweitzer is no more of an ideologue than she is in her scientific career. In both realms, she operates with a simple but powerful consistency: The best way to understand the glory of the world is to open your eyes and take an honest look at what is out there.rest of article here…discovermagazine.com… this article for unequivocal vindication of her findings….( April 30, 2009 )www.montana.edu/cpa/… — A dinosaur bone from Malta and analysis by Montana State University scientists have helped confirm that protein can be preserved for millions of years and that birds and dinosaurs are close relatives.Announced in the May 1 issue of Science, the discovery in an 80-million-year-old hadrosaur showed that a previous, similar find in a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex wasn’t a fluke, said a research team led by North Carolina State University, Harvard University, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.Lead author of the Science article was Mary Higby Schweitzer of NC State and the NC Museum of Natural History, a Helena native and former MSU graduate student. MSU co-authors were Recep Avci and Zhiyong Suo from the Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory, and Jack Horner, the Ameya Preserve curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies. A former MSU graduate student, Chris Organ of Harvard University, was also a co-author. Schweitzer and a previous team announced in 2007 that they had found collagen in the thigh bone of a T. rex from the Jordan area of eastern Montana. Collagen is the main organic compound found in bone. Responding to skeptics who doubted that protein could survive for 68 million years, Schweitzer’s team looked for another well-preserved dinosaur that could further support their claims. “We were looking for something that had the potential of producing more protein and more soft tissue like the T. rex,” Horner said. “We just figured we would go to the best place, go to the place where the best bone is exposed.”The search took Horner’s field crew to state land around Malta, an area that had yielded several well-preserved dinosaurs in the past, Horner said. There, under about 20 feet of sandstone in the Judith River formation, the paleontologists found the leg of a duck-billed dinosaur. They excavated the hadrosaur fossil in 2007.The Science article said the scientists left some of the sediments around the bone to keep degradation to a minimum, then covered the fossil with plaster and drove it to Bozeman. Working in Horner’s paleontology lab, Schweitzer collected bone and sediment samples with sterile instruments, wrapped the samples in layers of foil and placed them in sealed jars. She then sent samples to five laboratories, including ICAL at MSU.The labs conducted tests independently that supported the idea that the hadrosaur, like the T. rex, contained transparent, hollow, flexible vessels, according to the Science article. Some vessels contained cell-like structures, while others contained a red substance that looked like degraded blood from an ostrich. An NC State press release quoted Schweitzer as saying that, “We used improved methodology with better instrumentation, did more experiments and had the results verified by other independent labs. These data not only build upon what we got from the T. rex, but they take the research even further.”The NC State release said the researchers examined the bones microscopically with transmitted light and electron microscopes to confirm that they looked like collagen. They also tested them against antibodies that are known to react with collagen and other proteins. They analyzed the specimens with a new mass spectrometer capable of producing protein sequences with much greater resolution than the one used previously. With the mass spectrometer, co-author John Asara from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School was able to identify eight collagen peptides from the hadrosaur.Avci, director of ICAL, said scientists who reviewed the Science article before publication were concerned initially that impurities could have gotten into the specimens. Some of the tests used chemicals to extract biological materials from the bone fragments. The reviewers approved publication, however, after learning that the structures were evident even during direct, non-invasive, examination with the mass spectrometer.Schweitzer said, “This crucial piece of the work was done by Avci and Suo, using state-of-the-art technology that isolated a particular, diagnostic amino acid directly to the dinosaur tissues rather than to chemical extracts.” “It’s exciting” Avci said. “This is the beginning of the story, not the end.”Horner said he doesn’t know if the latest find will satisfy everyone who doubts that protein can survive for millions of years, but commented, “The nay-sayers can only say the world is flat for so long. It will be interesting to see what they say.”Science is a weekly journal that publishes scientific news, as well as the most significant breakthroughs in global research. It is the world’s largest circulation journal for a general science audience. For a related article, see:”Eastern Montana dinosaur now yields protein that’s 68 million years old” at www.montana.edu/cpa/… No virus found in this incoming message.Checked by AVG – www.avg.comVersion: 9.0.733 / Virus Database: 271.1.1/2661 – Release Date: 02/03/10 19:35:00

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