Author Archives: ForensicConnect

What Happens When You’re Convinced You Have Bad Genes

The first thing you should know is that the DNA-test results everyone got in this study were fake.
That was on purpose. Over the course of a year, psychologists at Stanford University recruited 223 participants for a study that would help scientists create personalized nutrition and exercise programs—or so they were told. What the two researchers, Brad Turnwald and Alia Crum, most wanted to investigate was how the participants would react after they took DNA tests and learned their genetic propensities for exercise and diet.

Narrower Skulls, Oblong Brains: How Neanderthal DNA Still Shapes Us

Two genes inherited from our evolutionary cousins may affect skull shape and brain size even today. What that means for human behavior is a mystery.

FBI plans ‘Rapid DNA’ network for quick database checks on arrestees

Though DNA has revolutionized modern crime fighting, the clues it may hold are not revealed quickly. Samples of saliva, or skin, or semen are sent to a crime lab by car (or mail), and then chemists get to work. Detectives are accustomed to waiting days or weeks, or longer, for the results. Some labs are so backed up, they take only the most serious crimes. Some samples are never tested.

Wis. Crime Lab Is Ground Zero In Search For Break In Closs Case

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week marks two agonizing months without answers in Jayme Closs’ disappearance. The 13-year-old vanished after someone shot and killed her parents inside their home in Barron, Wisconsin.
Despite a ground search and thousands of tips, Jayme’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
WCCO’s Liz Collin traveled to Madison’s crime lab where forensic experts are searching for a break in the case.

Advanced DNA Technology May Help To Identify Korean War Unknowns

The Pentagon is exhuming all of the more than 650 Korean War unknowns in a Honolulu military cemetery. Advances in DNA technology and other forensics make their identification highly likely.

‘The Double Helix’ at 50: Discovering DNA Is Still a Miracle

In 1968, art had no problem being big, bold, and sprawling. Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles unleashed gargantuan double album sets that seemed expressly primed for the blowing of minds, and if they didn’t get the synapses firing enough, there was Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to finish the job. But what we might overlook now, at the distance of some 50 years later, is what is conceivably that year’s best book, a slim volume that is bound to rip the roof off of any head and pour in a whole lot of goodness.

Lonesome George’s Dynamic DNA Reveals the Secrets of His Longevity

When Lonesome George died at the age of 102 he was considered the rarest animal on Earth. He was the last known member of his species, the Chelonoidis abingdonii — a giant tortoise native to Pinta Island, a remote fraction of the Galápagos Islands. When his caretaker of 40 years found him dead in 2012, George had died of natural causes. So what about George allowed him to live significantly longer than the average American?
Scientists explored the secrets of George’s longevity in a study published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Genetic analysis of George’s DNA, along with the DNA taken from other giant tortoises, revealed that his genetic code contained variants linked to DNA repair, cancer suppression, and a powerful immune response.

DNA Forensics Can End Ivory Trafficking. Will Countries Play Along?

Yves Hoareau, a research scientist at the University of Washington, Seattle, removes a set of keys firmly clamped to his belt and unlocks the door to the walk-in refrigerator. Illuminated beneath bright fluorescent lights, the cold, cramped space inside more closely resembles a mail room than a meat locker: cardboard boxes, some of which are adorned with “Kenya Airways Cargo” stickers and “Kenya Customs” packing tape, are stacked on many of the wire shelves. Overflowing within the boxes are small plastic containers, of the sort that are used to collect urine, each of which holds a single precious sample: ivory.

Brave New World of Editing Human DNA Starts in China

Researchers expressed surprise at the report Nov. 26 of the birth of the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls. It’s no surprise that the scientist making the claim was from China. As part of its effort to dominate scientific spheres including biotechnology, the country has taken the lead in testing uses of Crispr, a tool newly available to researchers enabling them to alter DNA codes simply and inexpensively. Chinese scientists were the first to test Crispr in monkey embryos, in non-viable human embryos, in adult humans — and now this. The announcement of the first designer babies has renewed debate over whether China’s regulatory system is sufficiently grappling with the ethical considerations and medical risks of Crispr.

UTM expands Forensic Science program

The forensic science program at UTM will be offering two new special topics courses this upcoming semester: FSC350H5, LEC0103: Missing Persons DVI and Unidentified Human Remains, and FSC350H5, LEC0104: DNA Typing using Massively Parallel Sequencing. Both will be taught by Assistant Professor Nicole Novroski, who is a new faculty member in the program.
Novroski is a forensic geneticist and biologist from the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Her role at UTM is to further develop the forensic biology stream.

DNA and fingerprints data shared with other countries for first time

Gardaí will be able to share forensic evidence such as DNA profiles and fingerprints with authorities in other countries for the first time today.
Laws passed in 2015 are finally coming in to effect, meaning offenders arrested here could end up being linked to crimes outside of Ireland.

Giving life to a woman found in a 4,250-year-old grave in Caithness

The research, published in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and led by archaeologist Maya Hoole, has shed new light on previous ideas on Ava’s appearance. She was found to be from an earlier date than previously thought.

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.