Scientists create new technology to preserve bones

A research team of anthropologists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed an innovative way to study old bones damage free. Specimen of old bones plays a crucial role in studying human life living hundreds and thousands of years ago.

The bone samples contain collagen, which is a useful molecule as it helps in comprehending the information based on human remains. The molecule also helps in understanding how long a person died and reveals information on what the person may have eaten.

Furthermore, scientists determine, collagen acts like a birth certificate, it can help in determining the age through radiocarbon dating.

According to Christina Ryder, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at CU Boulder, she described bone collagen as “a treasure within the realm of archaeology.” The team has therefore come up with a way to preserve this treasure.

The method developed by the team involves a process of screening bone samples which contain collagen. According to experts, the current tools examine type of tissue. The new method in contrast won’t damage the bones in the process.

Collagen however doesn’t age well and many skeletal remains don’t contain sufficient amount of it. Through the current study, researchers created a machine, also known as a near-infrared spectrometer in order to test bones for collagen.

The team tested the instrument on more than 50 samples of ground-up bone which contain concentrations of collagen. The results revealed approximate concentrations of collagen within every sample. The trial had worked for 44 pieces of whole bone.

Furthermore, the spectrometer is portable as it is the size of a briefcase. The spectrometer was tested for a study carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The near-infrared spectrometer helped in determining the limit to which the bone was to be destroyed in order to carry out a radiocarbon dating.

With the present study, scientists hope to extend the method in screening bones for understanding something greater than collagen, ancient DNA.