Finding Signs of Cancer in Dinosaur Fossils

Centrosaurus is a herbivorous Ceratopsian dinosaur that lived in Canada in the Cretaceous Period. A recent report describes the characterization of cancer in a Centrosaurus dinosaur fossil.
Centrosaurus is a herbivorous Ceratopsian dinosaur that lived in Canada in the Cretaceous Period.

Did dinosaurs get cancer? That isn’t an easy question to answer. Finding and diagnosing cancer in dinosaur fossils has proven difficult. Any soft tissue, the typical location of tumors, has degraded over the millennia. Fossilized bones millions of years old are subject to wear and tear, making it hard to distinguish bone damage from possible pathology. By using the knowledge and expertise gained from diagnosing cancer in humans, a team reported in The Lancet Oncology that they found the first known case of osteosarcoma in a lower leg bone from a horned dinosaur found in southern Alberta, Canada.

This case of bone cancer discovered in a specimen of Centrosaurus apertus found in the Canadian Dinosaur Park Formation was confirmed by examining the bone surface along with radiographic and histological analysis. The 77–75.5-million-year-old case was compared to both a normal C. apertus fibula from the Oldman formation also in southern Alberta, Canada, as well as a human fibula with an osteosarcoma.

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The Rise of Dinosaur Proteomics?

OsteocyteYears ago when I was still working in the lab, I was looking for control RNA options for my experiment in the Ambion catalog when I came across a listing for dinosaur brain RNA and DNA. I had to call their customer service and ask about the items because I could not believe such things existed. The representative I spoke with said I had found their joke listing and sent me a free t-shirt. While we are not quite to the point of selling dinosaur nucleic acid in life science company catalogs, there is some intriguing research in the journal Bone that does suggest that fossilized dinosaur osteocytes and associated proteins may be within our grasp. Continue reading “The Rise of Dinosaur Proteomics?”