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Structure of Dinosaur Collagen Unravels the Case for a Young Earth

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  • Structure of Dinosaur Collagen Unravels the Case for a Young Earth

    Structure of Dinosaur Collagen Unravels the Case for a Young Earth

    April 28, 2016

    By Dr. Fazale Rana

    This TNRTB was originally published in August 2011, but we are reposting it because of its relevancy today.

    One of the most provocative pieces of evidence young-earth creationists cite for a 6,000- to 10,000-year-old Earth is the discovery of soft-tissue remains in a dinosaur specimen that dates around 68 million years old.

    In recent years, researchers have found 1) epithelial cell and osteoclast remnants; 2) the remains of blood vessels; and 3) heme and hemoglobin components in the partially fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex femur. More recently scientists recovered fragments of the protein collagen from this specimen as well.
    John Morris, a young-earth proponent from the Institute of Creation Research, writes:
    Indeed, it is hard to imagine how soft tissue could have lasted even 5,000 years or so since the Flood of Noah’s day when creationists propose the dinosaur was buried. Such a thing could hardly happen today, for soft tissue decays rather quickly under any condition.
    But as compelling as this evidence for a young earth might seem, the preservation of dinosaur soft tissue for 68 million years can be readily explained.

    Still, Morris’ question is not unreasonable. Namely, how is it possible for soft tissue to survive for 68 million years? New research from an interdisciplinary team of scientists provides further response to this question by demonstrating how collagen’s structural features allow fragments to survive for eons.1

    A Durable Molecule
    As I’ve previously pointed out, it is not all that surprising that collagen (or at least fragments of it) could survive 68 million years in an environment devoid of water, oxygen, and microbes given its structure. Collagen’s basic structural unit is called a triple helix, consisting of three protein chains intertwining around each other. At certain points along the triple helix, the individual protein strands are chemically bound to each other to form crosslinks.

    Numerous collagen triple helices assemble in a staggered fashion to form a larger structure called a collagen fibril. Large numbers of collagen fibrils in turn assemble, with the aid of other proteins, into collagen fibers.

    The highly intertwined, cross-linked structure of collagen makes it reasonable that fragments of this molecule could survive for 68 million years. Even if the individual protein strands break down, the fiber would still remain largely intact because of all the association points. Once the protein strand breaks, the fragments are held in close proximity by the contact points. This forced closeness allows for broken strands to occasionally rejoin and reform the original protein. If the broken strands were not held juxtaposed to each other, the fragments would diffuse away from each other, thus, preventing the reversal of the degradation process.

    Finally, collagen’s association with the bone matrix provides added stability to the collagen proteins. Within the bone matrix, collagen fibers absorb to the mineral component of bone. The contact with the surface protects the protein and keeps the pieces of collagen juxtaposed whenever the protein strands break.

    Collagen’s abundance further explains its presence in dinosaur fossils. Collagen fibers comprise one of the chief components of connective tissue, are embedded in the bone matrix, and help form blood vessels. In fact, collagen makes up around 25 to 30 percent of all proteins found in animals.

    Young-Earth Creationists Aren’t the Only Skeptics
    Despite very good reasons to believe that collagen could survive for tens of millions of years in the matrix of dinosaur bones, some in the scientific community have questioned the soft-tissue finds.2 They claim these materials resulted from bacterial contamination of the fossils with microbially derived structures, thus creating a false appearance of blood vessels and cells. They also argue that the collagen fragments derive from bacterial proteins with structural homology to collagen.

    In response to these claims, researchers mapped collagen fragments isolated from the T. rex femur onto molecular models of human and rat collagen fibers. They discovered that the fragments all came from the innermost areas of the fibers, where the strands are packed most closely. These regions are the most protected within the collagen fiber.

    If the fragments were due to contamination, they should have mapped randomly onto all regions of the collagen fibers. The fact that the fragments clustered to the most protected areas of the fibers makes better sense if they were generated from dinosaur collagens. The more vulnerable areas of the fibers should break down first, with the most protected ones persisting over time—a type of molecular survival of the fittest.

    The mapping study supports the bioauthenticity of the collagen fragments. It also explains why collagen fragments survived for 68 million years and is consistent with my earlier suggestions. As remarkable as the discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils seems to be, it cannot be used to argue legitimately for a young earth.

    Want to learn more about whether the discovery of dinosaur soft tissues can make a case for a young earth? Fazale Rana’s new book, Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth, releases May 3. Click here (after May 3) to find out how you can receive a copy.

    Subjects: Scientific Evidence for a Young Earth?
    Dr. Fazale Rana

    In 1999, I left my position in R&D at a Fortune 500 company to join Reasons to Believe because I felt the most important thing I could do as a scientist is to communicate to skeptics and believers alike the powerful scientific evidence—evidence that is being uncovered day after day—for God’s existence and the reliability of Scripture. Read more about Dr. Fazale Rana

    1. James D. San Antonio et al., “Dinosaur Peptides Suggest Mechanisms of Protein Survival,” PLoS One 6, no. 6 (2011): e20381, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020381.
    2. Thomas G. Kaye, Gary Gaugler, and Zbigniew Sawlowicz, “Dinosaurian Soft Tissues Interpreted as Bacterial Biofilms,” PLoS One 3, no. 7 (July 30, 2008): e2808, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002808.

  • #2
    That's an amazing discovery, because 65 million years is an unfathomably long time and the soft tissue was a fly in the ointment of an otherwise solid old earth theory. It was evidence that did not seem to fit. It's even more amazing that God made collagen to be so resilient. Thanks for posting, Lou.


    • #3
      Thats inspiring. Thanks Lou.
      Last edited by Steve Hollander; May 4, 2016, 07:59 PM.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Baruch View Post
        That's an amazing discovery, because 65 million years is an unfathomably long time and the soft tissue was a fly in the ointment of an otherwise solid old earth theory. It was evidence that did not seem to fit. It's even more amazing that God made collagen to be so resilient. Thanks for posting, Lou.

        Thanks for the reply Barry. I am having computer trouble. My screen just goes black except for the heading and I have to shut down to get it back. This is the third attempt at answering you.

        Our bodies make collagen by linking amino acids with molecules of vitamin C. That is one reason our bodies need vitamin C everyday. Collagen is like the REBAR in our bodies. It holds our bones, muscles, and blood vessels together. So it is a very durable substance.

        While it is amazing that men found collagen that was 65 million years old, we have to remember that men have found thousands of dino fossils, but only one with collagen still in it. That dino bone was kept for 65 million years in ideal conditions to keep this collagen. I would say that God preserved that collagen for men to study.

        God has been so merciful to inspire men to write a history of His people and His acts in the Holy Scriptures.

        To me it is even more amazing that God has recorded the history of His creation in the light that comes to us from the stars far away. Some of this light came from stars that are over 13 billion light years away. That means that the light left those stars over 13 billion years ago. That means we are looking at what these stars looked like 13 billion years ago.

        Further God has also left us a record of all of time from the beginning until today by the light that comes from the stars far away and close by. God has left man a record from the beginning right up to the present day.

        While the fact that the universe has a beginning reveals that there is a Beginner. The fact that we have this history of the universe from the beginning until today is even more amazing.

        No one could do this except for a all powerful God that loves us very much.


        • #5
          Psalm 19English Standard Version (ESV)

          The Law of the Lord Is Perfect

          To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

          19 The heavens declare the glory of God,
          and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
          2 Day to day pours out speech,
          and night to night reveals knowledge.
          3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
          whose voice is not heard.
          4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
          and their words to the end of the world.

          In them he has set a tent for the sun,
          5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
          and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
          6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
          and its circuit to the end of them,
          and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

          7 The law of the Lord is perfect,[c]
          reviving t
          estimony of the Lord is sure,
          making wise the simple;
          8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
          rejoicing the heart;
          the commandment of the Lord is pure,
          enlightening the eyes;
          9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
          enduring forever;
          the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
          and righteous altogether.
          10 More to be desired are they than gold,
          even much fine gold;
          sweeter also than honey
          and drippings of the honeycomb.
          11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
          in keeping them there is great reward.

          12 Who can discern his errors?
          Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
          13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
          let them not have dominion over me!
          Then I shall be blameless,
          and innocent of great transgression.

          14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
          be acceptable in your sight,
          O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
          the soul;
          the t


          • #6
            Originally posted by Steve Hollander View Post
            Tattoo is inspiring. Thanks Lou.

            Hi Steve, thanks for your reply. TATTOO ??????????? I do not get it. Please explain to me I am thick at times.

            BTW, my university Physics student called after she took the final. She thought she did fantastic. She was pretty excited. She said at every other test she had no idea what the answers were, but on this test she was confident she had the correct answer on every question and problem except for two.


            • #7
              Sorry Lou my phone changes the words on me.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Steve Hollander View Post
                Sorry Lou my phone changes the words on me.

                No problem Steve. I am just curious and wonder what were the original words that got changed ?

                Sorry, I should have looked first. Thanks for the correction.
                Last edited by Lou Newton; May 4, 2016, 09:20 PM.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Steve Hollander View Post
                  Sorry Lou my phone changes the words on me.
                  I see you have a dumbphone too. =)