At a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Mary Schweitzer gave more evidence she found soft tissue in dinosaur bone.
Katie Wong reported on Schweitzer’s Oct. 17 talk on Scientific American. It was reprinted by Nature News. Wong reviewed the controversy about whether the tissues were original or were from later biofilms imitating soft tissue, then said that new tests have been done on two species of dinosaur:
Schweitzer and her colleagues have continued to amass support for their interpretation. The latest evidence comes from a molecular analysis of what look to be bone cells, or osteocytes, from T. rex and Brachylophosaurus canadensis. The researchers isolated the possible osteocytes and subjected them to several tests. When they exposed the cell-like structures to an antibody that targets a protein called PHEX found only in bird osteocytes* (birds are descended from dinosaurs), the structures reacted, as would be expected of dinosaur osteocytes. And when the team subjected the supposed dinosaur cells to other antibodies that target DNA, the antibodies bound to material in small, specific regions inside the apparent cell membrane.
In addition, she found protein sequences in the bone “matched sequences from proteins called actin, tubulin and histone4 that are present in the cells of all animals.” She argued these were distinguishable from similar proteins in soil bacteria.
Schweitzer joked with the audience by offering to show “the data in support of a biofilm origin” of the tissues – then put up a blank slide.
Update 10/23/2012: Science Daily showed pictures of the osteocytes reacting to antibodies and dyes just they do with bird bones, but not with microbes. Schweitzer continues to believe these proteins can be “preserved over time” (millions of years), and is no creationist. She said: “Hopefully these findings will give us greater insight into the processes of evolutionary change.”
This is an important claim that seems to be withstanding challenge. It will be interesting to watch for more evidence. You can ignore Wong’s consensus talking point “birds are descended from dinosaurs” as irrelevant to the story; same for Schweitzer’s personal faith in evolution and millions of years. The meat of the story is about soft tissue in supposedly 70-million-year-old bone. As long as the soft-tissue claims hold up, they argue strongly against the consensus view that dinosaurs died out millions of years ago. For a new creationist article on the subject that mentions the implications of soft tissue in dinosaur bone along with findings the media typically don’t talk about, see “The so-called age of dinosaurs” on Creation.com.