Novel Technique Reveals Healing Process Of Dinosaurs' Broken Bones
May 7, 2014

Novel Technique Reveals Healing Process Of Dinosaurs’ Broken Bones

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Like the bones of all animals, dinosaur bones are essentially a record of a particular organism’s life history, with tell-tale signs revealing disease or trauma to trained experts.

In a new study published by the journal Interface, researchers from the University of Manchester have used cutting-edge imaging techniques to gain new insight into the healing process that took place when a dinosaur suffered a crack or break to its bones.

While previous similar research in dinosaur bones often required slicing through an irreplaceable fossil to reveal its secrets, the new study employed synchrotron-based imaging, which uses light, more brilliant than 10 billion Suns, to suss out the chemical markers hiding inside the preserved dinosaur bones.

"Using synchrotron imaging, we were able to detect astoundingly dilute traces of chemical signatures that reveal not only the difference between normal and healed bone, but also how the damaged bone healed,” said study author Phil Manning, a paleobiologist at Manchester.

The study team found that significant trauma appeared to be easily absorbed by numerous predatory dinosaurs, as fossil bones often exhibited a large number of major injuries, which the dinosaurs survived but would probably prove fatal to humans without proper medical treatment.

"It seems dinosaurs evolved a splendid suite of defense mechanisms to help regulate the healing and repair of injuries,” Manning said. “The ability to diagnose such processes some 150 million years later might well shed new light on how we can use Jurassic chemistry in the 21st Century."

"The chemistry of life leaves clues throughout our bodies in the course of our lives that can help us diagnose, treat and heal a multitude of modern-day ailments,” he added. “It's remarkable that the very same chemistry that initiates the healing of bone in humans also seems to have followed a similar pathway in dinosaurs."

The researchers noted that the body has to completely reform new bone in the event of trauma. The reformation process must follow the same stages that took place during the initial growth of the skeleton. Through pathological research, scientists have been able to discover the chemistry of bone development.

"It's exciting to realize how little we know about bone, even after hundreds of years of research,” said study author Jennifer Anné, a researcher at Manchester. “The fact that information on how our own skeleton works can be explored using a 150-million-year-old dinosaur just shows how interlaced science can be."

“It is a fine line when diagnosing which part of the fossil was emplaced after burial and what was original chemistry to the organism,” added Roy Wogelius, a professor of geochemistry at the British university. "It is only through the precise measurements that we undertake at the Diamond Synchrotron Lightsource in the UK and the Stanford Synchrotron Lightsource in the US that we were able to make such judgments."

The university said this research will be on display at the Royal Society Summer Science, which runs from July 1 to 6 in London.