Monthly Archives: September 2017

Ancient human DNA in sub-Saharan Africa lifts veil on prehistory

The first large-scale study of ancient human DNA from sub-Saharan Africa opens a long-awaited window into the identity of prehistoric populations in the region and how they moved around and replaced one another over the past 8,000 years.
The findings, published Sept. 21 in Cell by an international research team led by Harvard Medical School, answer several longstanding mysteries and uncover surprising details about sub-Saharan African ancestry—including genetic adaptations for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the first glimpses of population distribution before farmers and animal herders swept across the continent about 3,000 years ago.

The Genomic Revolution Reaches the City Crime Lab

Lisa Ziegert disappeared from the gift shop where she worked on April 15, 1992, and her body was found four days later. From then until this past Monday, her murder remained unsolved.
Then on Monday, the local district attorney’s office in Massachusetts announced the arrest of a 48-year-old man for Ziegert’s death. Among the clues that led police to him was a computer-generated “mug shot” based on DNA found at the crime scene 25 years ago. Back then, the idea of predicting a face based on DNA would have seemed like science fiction. It is still rare today, but law-enforcement officials can quite easily order up such a test from the Virginia-based companyParabon NanoLabs.

Maharashtra to create DNA database of offenders

A database stores DNA profiles of individuals and enables searching and comparing of DNA samples collected from the crime scene against stored profiles. A positive match can be used as key evidence in criminal investigations. The UK had the world’s first national DNA database, which in 2010 contained over 5 million people’s DNA profiles — mostly those who were suspects in investigations or convicted of crimes. In the US, the FBI has a combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database.

Bones attributed to St Peter found by chance in 1,000-year-old church in Rome

Bones attributed to St Peter have been found by chance in a church in Rome during routine restoration work, 2,000 years after the apostle’s death.
The relics of the saint, who is regarded as the first Pope, were found in clay pots in the 1,000-year-old Church of Santa Maria in Cappella in the district of Trastevere, a medieval warren of cobbled lanes on the banks of the Tiber River.
The bones were discovered when a worker lifted up a large marble slab near the medieval altar of the church, which has been closed to the public for 35 years because of structural problems.

An Iowa woman has waited 7 months for her rape kit to be tested while her accused taker remains free. She’s not alone.

In late February, 42-year-old Gina Battani told her local police she was sexually assaulted by someone she knew.
But nearly seven months later, analysis of the evidence collected from her case has not been completed by the state crime lab — while the man she has accused walks free.

Denver police crime lab’s DNA testing gets high marks in federal audit

The Denver Police Department’s crime lab is on point when it comes to analyzing DNA found at crime scenes, according to the findings of a recent federal audit.

Huge DNA Databases Reveal the Recent Evolution of Humans

When we talk about human evolution, we usually talk about how we evolved into humans: how we lost body hair, gained brain mass, started to walk on two feet—in short, things that happened millions of years ago.
But evolution did not stop when the first modern humans emerged. A new study of two massive genetic databases—one in the United Kingdom and one in California—suggests genetic mutations that shorten lifespans have been weeded out since, and are possibly still in the process of being weeded out today.

9/11: Finding Answers in Ashes 16 Years Later

An inscription on the lobby wall greets visitors in Latin at the offices of the New York City medical examiner. It is an adage familiar to places where autopsies are performed. Reasonably translated, it says: “Let conversation cease. Let laughter flee. This is the place where death rejoices to help the living.”
Another saying, borrowed from the Book of Proverbs, Chapter 31, might also work were it to be put on that wall: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” That, too, is what the medical examiner’s office is about. Rarely has it been called upon to speak up as relentlessly as it has for those whose voices were silenced at the World Trade Center 16 years ago.

First Female Viking Warrior Proved Through DNA

In the 1880s, a fascinating grave was discovered in the Swedish town of Birka. Chock full of weapons, gaming equipment, and two horses, the 10th century AD burial was assumed to be that of a powerful male Viking warrior. But the skeleton had some traits that suggested the person was female. A new study has revealed through DNA analysis that this powerful warrior was indeed a Viking woman.

Bill Introduced to Reduce National Rape Kit Backlog

A bill called the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act was introduced today and will reauthorize, strengthen, and extend the Sexual Assault Forensic Registry program in an effort to help reduce the national rape kit backlog.
This legislation would also ensure pediatric forensic nurses are eligible for training, highlighting the need for pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners in responding to children suffering from abuse.

Dali group: Artist’s exhumed DNA disproves paternity claim

MADRID — A paternity test has disproved a Spanish woman’s claim that she is the daughter of surrealist artist Salvador Dali, the deceased painter’s foundation announced Wednesday.
The Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation said in a written statement that the Madrid court that ordered the DNA test informed it that Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old tarot card reader, has no biological relationship with Dali.

New DNA swab to combat sexual violence in war zones

Scientists have created a self-testing DNA swab that could make it much easier to prosecute the perpetrators of sexual violence in poor and war-torn countries where victims typically have poor access to forensic tools.
The new swab will allow victims to recover genetic evidence following a sexual assault, without the need for access to proper medical care or forensic examinations. This will enable victims to test themselves for the first time.

Chinese map app leads parents, lost children to DNA collection points

BEIJING, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) — The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and Internet giant Alibaba have jointly upgraded a mobile map application to show the locations of free DNA collection points for lost children and their parents.
More than 3,300 DNA collection points, most of which are in police stations, have been labeled and located on the map named AMAP, enabling parents and lost children to have their DNA information added to a nationwide database.

Nazi Execution of Polish Hostages Identified through DNA

For decades, Poland was a crossroads of horror. Caught between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and their wars of extermination, civilians and soldiers alike were slaughtered and secreted in countless graves – many of which still lay quiet in the Polish dirt.
The latest 20th century mass grave was excavated outside the walls of a former jail in the city of Bialystok. The archaeological work, and follow-up DNA analysis have now identified it as a scene of a Nazi SS war crime. The identification now also casts into doubt an even-bigger grave the Soviets blamed the Nazis for in the postwar period, as the Polish team reports in the journal Forensic Science International.

Searching DNA: Identifying the disappeared in Colombia

Puerto Asis, Colombia – Esperanza Canencio sits in silence in the tiny living room of her house with a picture of her son behind her in the southwestern state of Putumayo.
For hours now, a van has been driving around the streets with a recording that blares into the houses located on Carrera 20, where more than 300 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) make their way to a demobilisation zone to disarm and begin their transition to society.