Dinosaurs and human beings share a common body material, according to a researcher who has spent more than three decades uncovering the elusive chemistry that produces bones, teeth and other hard tissue in the human body.
"Proteins that have been found in dinosaur bones are still found in human bones today," says Dr. Melvin Glimcher, a Harvard Medical School professor and director of orthopedic research at The Children's Hospital, Boston."One of the proteins that plays a critical role in the formation of human tooth enamel today also is found in 200-million-year-old dinosaur teeth," he says.
His research suggests that the evolutionary mechanism that produced hard bone in dinosaurs 200 million years ago is still at work building bone in humans today.
Glimcher, who has received numerous awards and honors for his work in orthopedics, added a new prize recently: $25,000 from Bristol-Myers-Zimmer for outstanding orthopedic research. Earlier, The Children's Hospital won a $250,000 grant from the company for the orthopedic research program under Glimcher's direction.
Bone-related disorders rank second only to diseases of the circulatory system in total costs for treatment and disability - more than $65 billion annually, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Some 23 million Americans require medical attention or must restrict their activity because of arthritis, a crippling joint disease, notes the academy, which reports that there are more than a million hospitalizations for fractures and more than a half-million for arthritis each year.