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Collagen damage on a molecular scale

Posted on 17 October 2012

Chemist watches bone collagen degrade, amino acid at a time.

Fossil tooth

A team of mathematicians, chemists and archaeologists at York have come up with a new way to triage old bones using mass-spectrometric methods.

The new approach reported in the journal Analytical Chemistry Anal. Chem., DOI: 10.1021/ac301333t was developed by Julie Wilson, a chemist at the University of York enables the rapid assessment of damage in bone collagen at the scale of single amino acids.  Working with the BioArCh team of Nienke van Dorn and Matthew Collins, Julie established a method for assessing the extent in which individual glutamine residues in bone were converted to glutamic acid.

Using this technique Nienke mapped a large number of archaeological bones, revealing that different residues degrade at different rates, but overall there was a strong time-dependent signal.  

For more details see the article in Chemical and Engineering News.