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Archive for the ‘Forensic Testing’ Category

Professional DNA Collecting – The Scary Side of Clients

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:14 PM
Thursday, September 27, 2012

Collecting DNA samples from individuals can be a very intimate situation. In most cases, the clients are nervous and anxious, which is understandable since the DNA test results can be life changing. Generally, meeting with clients and performing the collection goes well and everyone is on their best behavior. However, sometimes we find ourselves in emotionally charged situations and it can be a little unsettling, especially when the collection is performed by a mobile collector at the home of the clients. Regardless or where the collection takes place, we always hope that there is no fighting, or worse, violence, while performing the DNA collection service.

A recent news report reminds us that we need to always be careful  - we never know what the true situation is and we never know if the people that we are collecting DNA from are sane. For example:

According to the Arlington, Texas police, a man by the name of Thomas Olivas, age 29, was arrested in the death of his ex-girlfriend, Mechelle Danielle Gandy, age 26, and her 1 year old child, a boy, Asher Rion Olivas.

Police reported that, on March 2011, Thomas murdered the mother and child by stabbing Mechelle to death, and then dousing the room where Asher was sleeping in his crib with gasoline, and then lighting the apartment on fire. His motives are said to be that he did not want to pay child support and called Asher “the devil’s child” on Facebook. A forensic DNA paternity test was performed using the child’s remains and as it turned out, Thomas Olivas WAS the father of the child. The mother and child were buried in Moore Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Arlington.

It is these types of terrible tragedies that concern us. We realize that we are working with people who could be criminally insane, dangerous and emotionally unstable. It’s not something that we wish to be caught up in. We feel for any family that has to endure such a terrible ordeal!

Author: Meagan Thompson

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Failure of Genetic Passports for Plants, Animals and Microorganisms

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:26 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The idea of creating genetic passports for, plants, animals, microorganisms was a very hot topic between 2007 and looked like it was on it’s way to becoming a common, standard practice. However, at this time, for the most part, these burgeoning ideas seem to have been put on hold.

The idea to create genetic passports was suggested by the Technical Expert Group of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Lima, Peru and was backed by a group of experts from over 25 countries. The proposal, which stated that 150 countries, who signed a 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) treaty, would have sovereignty over the genetic resources originating within their borders and could control the use of their genetic resources outside of their borders. They would do so by providing specific information such as the material’s origin, its characteristics and the institutions responsible for providing and/or using it.

While the proposal was widely praised and supported, it does not appear that it was ever adapted by the Convention on Biological Diversity.  In fact, in a paper entitled “Genetic Diversity and Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources” the author(s) state that:

Accurate passport and characterization data are the first requirements, but users of plant genetic resources, particularly plant breeders, have also emphasized the need for improved evaluation of accessions. Evaluation is a complex process and there is serious backlog in most collections.

However, you can be assured that genetic passports for non-human organisms is on it’s way even if it is not currently implemented. Were there is a will, there is a way.

If you enjoyed this story you might also enjoy: Genetic Passports…A Thing Of The Past?‪ ‬

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Pearl Harbor: DNA Testing Brings Hope To Missing Soldiers’ Families

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:57 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack that decimated the US Pacific Fleet. Of the ships that were attacked few sank as fast or as completely as the Oklahoma, which listed and capsized within minutes after a rapid series of direct torpedo strikes.

Survivors from the Oklahoma described a surreal scene below deck of sloshing water and fuel oil, men trying to climb from the darkness through hatches, beating their way out with tools. Hundreds remained trapped in interior compartments. Of the dead on the Oklahoma, 36 were easily recovered and identified. The remainder were not able to be identified and were interred in communal caskets.

Approximately 74,000 soldiers from World War II still remain unaccounted for. About one-quarter of those are considered recoverable by the military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the Hawaii organization that has relied on scientific and geopolitical changes to identify more than 600 long-lost MIAs since 2003.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s military and civilian teams have tracked down aircraft wrecks and burial sites in remote locations, exhumed remains, and analyzed bone fragments and bits of material at the world’s largest forensic anthropology lab. They work with casualty offices from each branch to find survivors and collect DNA samples for matching. For each name, the military tries to locate at least two relatives who share a long-lasting form of DNA passed along maternal lines.

In Hawaii, Greg Berg, the forensic anthropologist who manages the joint command’s Central Identification Laboratory, cautions that the work to identify remains could take years, the process he warns is complicated by commingling of remains which is far more extensive than expected. Only five people have been definitively identified since 2003.

Still, “the commingling problems are not insurmountable, and [we are] confident in our abilities to eventually bring about case resolution,’’ Berg said by e-mail.

For more see: Boston Globe

If you enjoyed this story you might also enjoy: Dog Tages Out DNA Profiles In‪ ‬

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Dead Mountain Lion To Be Genetically Tested In New York

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:22 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New York State officials are hoping that genetic testing can help solve the mystery of a mountain lion which mysteriously appeared in Greenwich. DNA testing will be used to determine where the deceased young male mountain lion came from and, hopefully, how he got to Greenwich, NY in the first place. Along with how is the question of any criminal aspect to his appearance.  A mountain lion was killed by a driver on Route 15 in Milford, NY early Saturday morning. Officials believe that this same lion that had been spotted in the upper King Street area of Greenwich earlier.

The mountain lion was neither neutered nor declawed, according to DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) officials. But they do believe the lion was let go from captivity or released into the area.  Mountain lions are not native to this region of the state

Officials believe that by conducting genetic testing, examining the animal’s stomach content and checking to see if it was microchiped, they can determine where the mountain lion came from, including whether the animal is native to North America or South America.

After the crash that killed the mountain lion in Milford, there were three other reports of possible mountain lions, but DEP is not considering them to be credible because of a lack of photos or significant paw prints.

New York state DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) received an anonymous call on Sunday to report a large cat in the area of exit 31 on the Merritt Parkway in Greenwich. Later a call from a Greenwich family reported a large tan cat in the backyard of their John Street home, near the Audubon. The family described the cat as a mountain lion.

DEP Officials are testing “scat” or feces to determine what the second reported animal is.

DEP officials say that part of the investigation into the deceased mountain lion will be done in New York, where officials are checking on “permitted lions” to see if that generates leads. The closest mountain lion population is located in Florida. While the mountain lions roam, DEP officials do not think it is likely that a Florida mountain lion would have made the trip that far north.

DEP officials said mountain lions are most active at dawn and dusk and anyone with information should call 860-424-3333

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Dog Tags Out, DNA Profiles In

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:52 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I just came across an article distributed by the New Zealand Herald announcing the above topic. This brought my thinking to the use of DNA Profiling in general.

Dog Tags give way to DNA – 5:00AM Thursday November 01, 2007

CANBERRA – The DNA of all serving defence force personnel will from next year be stored to help identification of remains.

The Australian Defence Force decision follows a review of operating procedures and operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Traditionally, soldiers have been identified by dog tags – discs inscribed with name, service number and religion – worn around the neck.

Although it sounds like a grim, possibly invasive, practice, using DNA in place of dog tags to identify the remains of soldiers is, in fact, very wise. Many different issues can arise with tags worn around the neck: they can be stolen, lost, destroyed, or held on to by another solider, to name a few.

The practice of DNA Profiling and Banking is elected by many companies that send employees or contractors to war zones. A sample of that person’s DNA is collected in the case of emergency. Should there be an incident, both the company and the family can have peace of mind. Quickly. So, why not utilize the same technology for soldiers who are on the front lines?

The same goes for cases involving human remains in public cases, such as in the search for a missing or abducted child, family members (parents, siblings or children) have to give a personal sample to be matched to remains found in the accident or murder. The amount of time between the incident/crime scene collection, family collection and laboratory screening for a match can be agonizing. Especially when using State and County Forensics labs which are notorious with delayed specimen processing. All of these issues, and more, have led some protective parents to have profiles performed on their children, “just in case”.

As a matter of fact, our company, DNA Identifiers, is arranging a collection at this very moment with a client who is traveling overseas in the coming year. The client is an American Soldier currently serving in the war and he has requested a Child ID Kit and DNA Profile… “just in case”. Understandably, he, of all people, has his concerns about his child’s safety and had decided to err on the side of caution.

Creating a U.S. database with solider DNA Profiles would help cut through the waiting and possible confusion with John Does’ and missing and destroyed dog tags. At the very least, the profiles could work in conjunction with the tags, not in place of. And it is conceivable that, not accounting for a backlog of cases, a lab could have the profile matched in a 24 hour period.

So why not use this technology the same as the Australians? Based on the number of times we have asked out Congress for an increase in funds and our militaries’ struggle to keep the troops properly armored, funding for this kind of project appears to be long way down the road.

For now, my advice to any soldier or family who feels the need to have peace of mind (like our client with daughter mentioned above) – don’t wait for the government to provide this service, have a private DNA Profile performed. I know it’s a relative matter, but they are not outlandishly expensive. If you ask, who knows, you might even get a discount!

For more information about DNA Profiling and Banking visit DNA Banking

(Please note that the above views of the author, and of DNA Identifiers, do not intend to lend support to, nor oppose, the War on Terror.)

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Proving the Death of Osama Bin Laden Through DNA Testing

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:31 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When President Obama announced Sunday evening, May 1st,  that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a United States military operation, many wanted physical proof that the person killed and taken into custody was in fact Mr. Osama Bin Laden.

At this time reports are confirming 3 ways the remains were identified: 1) Facial recognition software was used to match the remains with facial photos of Osama Bin Laden. 2) There was apparently a personal identification of the body by someone inside the complex (exactly who identified the remains is unclear).  3) DNA testing of the remains took place within hours of death.

DNA Testing is now fast and accurate. It no longer takes weeks but can be done in the matter of hours and has a 99.9% or better accuracy rate.  At least one question remains – who, how or what did they test to confirm that it was Osama Bin Laden?  Did they test a family member against his DNA? There is speculation that they could they have tested the purported Osama Bin Laden sample against DNA from his sister, which (according to reports) had been held at Massachusetts General Hospital after her death in Boston last year. Or did they somehow already have Osama Bin Laden’s DNA on file and test against that?

According to Dr. M. Al Salih, who works at DNA Reference Laboratory in San Antonio, TX, he is sure that the results are accurate.  “You can come up with a very solid and absolute certainty that that is him and nobody else. If you identify that individual through those markers, and you can compare and you can say, ‘They match,’ or ‘They don’t match.’” Salih went on to state that the technology is very precise and results are 99.9 percent accurate.

However, on the other side is Dr. Greg Hampikian, a biology professor at Boise State University, says if they can get DNA from one of his kids and their mother then they do a reverse paternity test to confirm his identity and he suspects that is the type of DNA testing that was done. However even with a 99.9 percent identification Hampikian says that this case is not closed. As a scientist, Hampikian says 99.9 percent does not equal a positive identification.

As is the case with most major events such as this, skeptics speculate that we have not received enough proof and conspiracy abounds. One thing is for certain, we love conspiracies and we will never really know the truth.

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Cops To Set Up DNA Database For Missing Kids

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 4:27 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012

There are many organizations world wide that are trying desperately to help find missing children.  South African Provincial Police are trying to set up a National DNA Database of Children to assist in locating missing children.  Officers are trying to use media, movie theaters, banks and even air lines to show video clops showing pictures and details of the over 114 children who are missing in the provinces.  They are also planning to ask malls, trains and taxi operators to distribute pamphlets with photos and details of the missing children

Police announced these plans as officers continued searching for six-year-old Okuhle and three-year-old Mabaxole Maqhubela, the latest additions to the province’s list of missing children. They disappeared in Laingsburg last week on their way from East London to Cape Town by taxi.

During a weekly press briefing, provincial visible policing head Robbie Roberts, said missing children were one of the “biggest concerns” in the South Africa.  According to Roberts “on a daily basis a lot of children are reported missing.”

Roberts warned parents not to leave their children alone or let them out of their sight.  “And ask yourself when you put your children in the care of somebody, do you really know that person? Do you really trust that person?”

Roberts urged parents to tag their children, including on the tag the child’s name and the parents’ contact details, especially when taking their children to a large public area like a beach. “It’s unbelievable how many children get lost on a beach in one day,” he said.

Roberts said children needed to be taught their home address and parents’ cellphone or landline number. “Once recovered, we find it difficult to get this information from children.” He also urged parents to take photographs of their children so they would always have a recent one.

Provincial Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros had tasked Roberts, other NGOs, to come up with a more effective plan to tackle the problem.

In the most recent missing children case, Roberts said officers had been unable to find recent photographs of Okuhle Maqhubela and her brother, Mabaxole. The brother and sister went missing from a petrol station in Laingsburg at midnight during a trip from East London to Cape Town, where they would have been reunited with their mother.

Roberts said police in the province would approach the national office to have an identity kit they had created for children, to be distributed in the Western Cape and the rest of the country, if approved.

Once filled out and completed, the kit would include details of the child, a recent photograph, his or her fingerprints, a DNA sample, his or her blood type and details of his or her parents. Dessie Rechner, founder of the NGO Pink Ladies which helps police with search operations, said she was “extremely excited” about the identity kit and proposed database.

Missing children are a huge concern international. Many laboratories are trying to assist in the search for missing children. DNA Identifiers offers a Child Safety Identification Kit like the one described in the article to help keep children safe.

Child Safety Kit

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Lab Focusing on Pacific Island Genetics

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:17 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012

In 2009 a new laboratory was opened at the University of Otago it was expected to unlock secrets about the genetic heritage of Pacific people, animals and plants according to scientists and anthropologists.

The ancient DNA laboratory, allows scientists to extract DNA from bones, teeth and plant matter. The DNA will be analyzed using the latest technology, including the university’s $1 million gene sequencing machine which was purchased in 2008. The facility is a joint project between 3 departments.

Ancient DNA did not necessarily mean from antiquity, according to Professor Matisoo-Smith. In scientific terms, ancient means any DNA samples which were not taken from living subjects. Matisoo-Smith did go on to say that some of the samples the laboratory would handle would be thousands of years old.

Already, projects were planned with samples from many parts of New Zealand, several Pacific islands and from Chile.

Representatives of Maori iwi whose ancestors’ DNA will be analysed in the laboratory spoke of their initial reluctance to allow their ancestors’ remains to be analysed because of the intrusiveness of the process.  They did however agree to allow the DNA analysis after discussions with Prof Matisoo-Smith and her staff which allayed their fears.  Both sides are now hoping the laboratory would provide interesting information on how their ancestors lived, what they ate and what they looked like.

Respecting the remains of people from the past was paramount, said Prof Matisoo-Smith. An ultra-clean environment had to be preserved to ensure ancient DNA samples were not contaminated.

In just a year after opening, an international team of researchers, which includes University of Otago archaeologists Chris Jacomb and Richard Walter, successfully isolated ancient DNA from eggshells of extinct birds.

Previous attempts to recover DNA from fossil eggshell have been unsuccessful. Chris Jacomb said, “this new ability to isolate ancient DNA from moa eggshell opens up exciting new research possibilities not just for palaeobiologists, but also for archaeologists. Indeed, it was this potential to address important questions in New Zealand archaeology that drew Associate Professor Walter and me into this international collaboration.”

Using the DNA from the moa’s provides a powerful new tool in understanding how the demise of moa occurred. “Not only can we now match eggshell to particular moa species, we can develop detailed models of hunting practice by looking at the family relationships of individual birds. This will help us understand hunting and extinction processes.”

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John Doe DNA Warrants Upheld In California

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:10 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of California (January 25,2010) ruled 5-2 to authorize the use of “John Doe” DNA arrest warrants. California law, consistent with the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment holds that prosecution for an offense commences when an arrest warrant is issued and “names or describes the defendant with the same degree of particularity required for a complaint.”

In a brief overview DNA.gov discusses the proper preparation of a John Doe DNA Warrant. It states that “if no offender match occurs in cases which statutes of limitation are an issue, consideration may be given, in consultation with the prosecutor to prepare a John Doe warrant. These types of warrants can identify the perpetrator according to his or her DNA profile. The 13 loci profile generated by the crime laboratory should be clearly printed on the face of the warrant”.

In a the case of Paul Eugene Robinson, a man charged with raping a Sacramento woman in 1994 a warrant was issued three days before the 6-year statute of limitation ran out in August of 2000, this warrant describing only the suspect’s DNA profile. That profile was then linked to Robinson through the California Department of Justice Laboratory SDIS system. Mr. Robinson had been convicted on sexual assault charges previously. {JURIST, Sarah Miley}

Supporters of the John Doe DNA indictments say it is a legitimate way to vindicate victims, prevent offenders from escaping justice, and prevent future crimes. Without the start of prosecution, a case cannot be tried once the statute of limitations has run. This means that if a suspect is identified one day beyond the statutory limit, he cannot be tried for the offense.

Critics argue that issuing an arrest warrant based on a DNA profile is a disingenuous device of the prosecution that evades the statute of limitations and infringes on the constitutional rights of the accused. In the dissenting opinion in the Robinson case, Judge Carlos Moreno stated “the warrant did not become effective until a fictitious name is replaced with the suspect’s real name, and at that point the statute of limitations had expired”.

While the John Doe warrant appears to be in place in California there are still many challenges for it to face before it becomes common practice.

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DNA Tests Could Solve Mystery Death of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 1:50 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Baroque master’s death is surrounded in mystery, but that mystery may soon be solved thanks to DNA testing — as long as the right body can be found.

The caused of death for this famous painter in 1610 and the whereabouts of his corpse have always been unclear.  But a team of Italian anthropologists believe that what is left of Caravaggio’s body may be hidden among dozens of bodies buried in a crypt in Tuscany, thanks to recent historical clues.

The team using CAT scans and kits for carbon dating plan to study what they believe are the painter’s exhumed remains to discover how he died.  “If we are lucky enough to find Caravaggio’s skull, we will also be able to do a reconstruction of his face, just as we did in 2007 for Dante Alighieri,” Silvano Vinceti, head of the National Committee for Cultural Heritage, told Reuters.

The only images of the artist available until now have been self-portraits.  Scholars have put forward many theories about Caravaggio’s death. The most popular are that the painter was assassinated for religious reasons or collapsed with malaria on a deserted Tuscan beach.

However, in 2001 an Italian researcher claimed to have found the painter’s death certificate, which allegedly proved that he died in hospital.  “This historical document shows Caravaggio did not die alone on the beach but after three days in hospital, which means the body must have been buried in the San Sebastiano cemetery,” said Vinceti, referring to a Tuscan town near the city of Grosseto.

But in 1956, bodies buried at the tiny San Sebastiano graveyard were moved to a nearby town, Porto Ercole, and scholars hope that the remains of Caravaggio will be among them.

The team from the departments of Anthropology and Cultural Heritage Conservation at the universities of Ravenna and Bologna will have to examine the bones of between 30 and 40 people, selecting those that belong to young men who died at the beginning of the 17th century, to try and identify the painters remains.

“We will check the DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of possible matches against that of the painter’s male descendants,” Professor Giorgio Gruppioni, who will head the team, told Reuters.  “Sadly Caravaggio died childless,” said Gruppioni, “but his siblings had children whose relatives are still living in the northern Italian town that carries his name.”

Caravaggio, who pioneered the Baroque painting technique of contrasting light and dark known as chiaroscuro, is famed for his wild life. Legend has it that he was on his way to Rome to seek pardon for killing a man in a brawl when he died.

Based on the article by Ella Ide: DNA tests could solve mystery of Caravaggio’s death

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