Author Archives: ForensicConnect

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.

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.