A Rare Tumor Found in Humans Has Been Discovered in a Dinosaur

3D scanner aids in discovery

Over 60 million years ago dinosaurs roamed the Canadian plains and scientists have found a benign tumor, referred to as LCH, in the tail vertebrae of a young hadrosaur.

Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH) is a rare tumor that is mainly present in children under the age of ten. With the discovery of the tumor in a young dinosaur there is evidence that it isn’t unique to humans and has survived millions of years of species’ evolution. Scientists at Tel Aviv University were among those that studied the dinosaur bones and evidence of the tumor.

Hila May, a physical anthropologist, at the Dan David Center for Human Evolution at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine stated, “Researchers in North America studying dinosaur fossils identified large cavities, evidently created by tumors, in two tail vertebrae of a young dinosaur discovered in southern Alberta.”

She went on to elaborate on the Hadrosaurus. “The dinosaur belonged to the genus Hadrosaurus, also known as ‘duck-billed dinosaurs’ – herbivores common almost all over the world about 66-80 million years ago.”

What caught researchers’ attention was the cavities in the tail vertebrae. The shape and size of the cavities were extremely similar to those left by LCH tumors in humans. For additional research, the dinosaur tail bones were sent to the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv for micro-CT scanning.

May briefly explained how 3D scanning helps researchers. “The scanner generates images with a very high resolution of up to a few microns. We were able to form a reconstructed 3D image of the tumor and the blood vessels leading to it. The image confirmed in a high probability that the dinosaur did indeed suffer from LCH.”

Prof. Israel Hershkovitz from the Dan David Center is excited about the discovery of the rare tumor on the dinosaur vertebrae.  “Research of this kind, made possible by current technology, contributes a great deal to Evolutionary Medicine – a relatively new field of research which investigates the development and behavior of diseases over time.”

It helps to prove what most scientists already know from other examples – that diseases are not always limited to a specific species. Diseases can also withstand the evolutionary process, even after millions of years.

Aiding researchers is new technology. With 3D scanning researchers can see an accurate depiction of the bone and cavity. 3D laser printing allows scientists to make models to study without damaging the original bone. Scientists are excited to see what else they can discover about life on the planet and the development of diseases, some which may still be around today.

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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