Scientists at the University of Tel Aviv (TAU) in Israel have found remains of a tumor 60 million years ago in the tail of a young dinosaur that is related to a current human disease. Hila May, a researcher at the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at the TAU Sackler School of Medicine and the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research, and her team identified this benign tumor as part of the pathology of HCL (Langerhans histiocytosis cell), a rare condition that still affects people, especially children under 10.
“Professors Rothschild and Tanke found something unusual in the tail vertebrae of a young hadrosaurid, common in the world 66-80 million years ago,” May says in reference to Bruce Rothschild of the University of Indiana and Darren Tanke, from the Royal Museum of Paleontology, who along with Frank Rühli, from the University of Zurich, also contributed to the research published in the “Scientific Reports” magazine. This group was also known as “duck-billed dinosaurs,” for the appearance of its mouth with bird beaks. However, that was not what alarmed the researchers. “There were large cavities in two of the segments of the vertebrae, which were unearthed in Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta, Canada.”
It was the strange shape of these cavities that attracted the attention of the researchers. «They were extremely similar to those produced by tumors associated with the rare HLC disease that still exists today in humans (…) Most of the HCL-related tumors, which can be very painful, suddenly appear in the bones of children from 2 to 10 years. Fortunately, these tumors disappear without intervention in many cases ».
The vertebrae of the tail of the dinosaur were sent for an advanced micro-CT scan to the Institute of Anthropology of the Shmunis Family, at the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research of the TAU. «We scanned the dinosaur vertebrae and created a 3D computerized reconstruction of the tumor and the blood vessels that fed it. Micro and macro analysis confirmed that, in fact, it was HCL. This is the first time this disease has been identified in a dinosaur, ”says May.
According to the researcher, the surprising findings indicate that the disease is not exclusive to our race and that it would have survived for more than 60 million years. “We are trying to understand why certain diseases survive evolution in order to decipher what causes them to develop new and effective ways to treat them,” said Israel Hershkovitz, of the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at TAU. .