Monthly Archives: November 2018

Dads (Not Just Moms) Can Pass on Mitochondrial DNA, According to Provocative New Study

It’s long been thought that people inherit mitochondrial DNA — genetic material found inside cells’ mitochondria — exclusively from their mothers. But now, a provocative new study finds that, in rare cases, dads can pass on mitochondrial DNA, too.

For nearly 50 years, Harvard was haunted by an unsolved murder. DNA now points to a serial rapist.

It is a winter-swept afternoon in January 1969, the thermometer dangling in the mid-30s in Cambridge, Mass. A Harvard University graduate student named James Humphries hustles up the stairs to the top floor of an apartment building two blocks from Harvard Square.
His friend and classmate Jane Britton was a no-show at an important exam that morning. The phone just rang and rang when he called to check in, a police report would later document. With his knocks now going unanswered at the gold-painted door leading into the $75-a-month apartment Britton shares with a pet cat and turtle, he tries the handle. It’s unlocked.

The lingering case of Tommy Zeigler and how Florida fights DNA testing

Dale Recinella steeled himself as he entered Florida’s death row and the rank smell of men who lived year-round with no air conditioning. The electronic door grinded as it closed behind him.
The Catholic chaplain’s Rockports squeaked on the concrete corridor as he walked from cell to cell, on that day in 1999.
Recinella had been a Wall Street finance lawyer before deciding the work wasn’t meaningful enough. He now served as a voluntary chaplain to hundreds on death row and another 1,500 in solitary confinement. It was the hardest thing he’d ever done, but it had given him peace.

Sigrid Johnson Was Black. A DNA Test Said She Wasn’t.

The surge in popularity of services like 23andMe and Ancestry means that more and more people are unearthing long-buried connections and surprises in their ancestry.

A mass grave — and chilling secrets from the Jim Crow era — may halt construction of a school in Texas

It was once known as the Hellhole on the Brazos — a notorious network of sugar cane plantations and prison camps where former slaves worked and died.
A tract near Houston, in what is now known as Sugar Land, became a graveyard for many of those people; it was unmarked, untouched and unconfirmed for decades.

How DNA from snow helps scientists track elusive animals

Getting your paws on a Canadian lynx is no easy task. These rare cats inhabit remote forests and steep rocky mountains. In fact, lynx are so scarcely-seen, they’ve been dubbed the “ghost cat”—and little is known about their distribution. This lack of information has hindered efforts to conserve the animal, which is listed as a threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Scientists have now begun using a new technique to track these animals down, by detecting trace amounts of DNA left in the snowy tracks of these and other creatures. In a study to be published in the journal Biological Conservation, scientists from the U. S. Forest Service were able to confirm the presence of a lynx in the Northern Rockies through genetic analysis of snow it had stepped in.

California Turns to War-Zone DNA Test to ID Fire Remains

At least 77 people are dead and more than 900 remain missing after the Camp Fire swept through the Sierra foothills town of Paradise, destroying more than 11,000 homes and scorching an area hundreds of square miles wide. Many victims were burned beyond recognition, making identifying remains a difficult task using traditional DNA-analysis techniques. Those samples typically must be shipped off to a laboratory, and the identification process can take weeks — if it works at all.

The Missing persons department wants to exhume 135 bodies to identify them

They are the remains of unidentified men and women who were buried in the 1970s, the Het Nieuwsblad reported on Saturday.
Investigators were recently able to identify the body of Corine van der Valk, the heiress who disappeared in 2001. Her family owns hotels and restaurants in the Netherlands.

Identifying wildfire dead: DNA, and likely older methods too

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities doing the somber work of identifying the victims of California’s deadliest wildfire are drawing on leading-edge DNA technology, but older scientific techniques and deduction could also come into play, experts say.
With the death toll from the Northern California blaze topping 40 and expected to rise, officials said they were setting up a rapid DNA-analysis system, among other steps.

He or She? Remains Tell the Whole Tooth

A team led by UC Davis researchers have come up with a new way to estimate the biological sex of human skeletal remains based on protein traces from teeth.

DNA Identifies Origins of World’s Oldest Natural Mummy

Scientists discovered the ancient human skeleton known as the “Spirit Cave Mummy” back in 1940, hidden in a small rocky cave in the Great Basin Desert in northwest Nevada. But it wouldn’t be until the 1990s that radiocarbon dating techniques revealed the skeleton was some 10,600 years old, making it the oldest natural mummy ever found.

DNA evidence could soon tell cops your age, whether you smoke, and what you ate for breakfast

That was the case in a murder trial that Bruce McCord, a forensic chemist at Florida International University, served as an expert witness in. A woman was murdered shortly after she went through a divorce, and DNA from her ex-husband was found on her body. But it was hard to tell if the DNA was the result of innocent contact between the two, or if it was incriminating, and came from blood.

It is with deep regret that we announce the loss of our colleague, Art Eisenberg, PhD.

It is with deep regret that we announce the loss of our colleague, Art Eisenberg, PhD. Prior to his retirement in 2017, Dr. Eisenberg served as Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics and Co-Director of the Center for Human identification at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

In a career that spanned more than three decades, Dr. Eisenberg worked on cases involving serial killers, mass graves, hurricanes, terrorist attacks and all manner of violent crimes. Under his leadership, the UNT Center for Human Identification processed more than 5,200 human remains, making more than 1,500 DNA associations that led to identifications. Perhaps his greatest legacy, however, is the establishment of the Master of Science program in Forensic Genetics, ensuring that the science he pioneered will carry on for generations to come.

Information on funeral arrangements will be shared when available. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Eisenberg’s family during this difficult time.

Cold case expert tells court how he found ‘one-in-a-billion DNA match’ to murder suspect Russell Bishop on the arm of one of two girls found dead in woodland 32 years ago

Mr Green told jurors the results found DNA ‘in excess of one billion times more likely’ to belong to the defendant and an unknown person than two unknown people.

New bones found on Vatican property as others go for testing

ROME – Two days after bones found on Vatican property last week were sent for DNA testing and comparisons, more remains were uncovered in the same area, and are believed to belong to the same individual.