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Archive for the ‘Health & Wellness’ Category

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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Frankenstein’s Pet Jellyfish, “Frankenjelly”

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:20 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

After much trial and error, researchers have built a 1 cm jellyfish, or medusiod, out of rat heart cells. While some engineers build objects using standard materials such as concrete, metal or wood, these bioengineers are using living cells.

The reason for this experiment is not just to play around with nature, but to understand and design better artificial hearts and other muscular organs, which in turn helps with the advancement of medical implant device technology.

The bioengineers who spearheaded this project are: John Dabiri from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Kevin Kit Parker from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Their motto was, “Copy nature, but not too much.”

After building an ideal jellyfish shape on silicon they then coached rat heart muscle cells to grow along the silicon and encased that product with an elastic material called an elastomer. In order to make it “swim”, through muscle flexing and contracting, the researchers submerged the jellyfish in a saline solution and ran an electric current through the water which “jump started” the heart cells into movement. When they did this the jellyfish propelled itself in the same way a real jellyfish would move.

Scientists agree that this groundbreaking research is expected to have a lasting impact on the future capability of medical implant devices.

Wired Science Original Article

Authored by: Meagan Thompson

Jellyfish Swimming

Rat Heart Cells

Rat Heart Cells

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Black Death DNA Decoded

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:02 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I just came across an article distributed by the National Public Radio (NPR) about a scientific beak though in DNA sequencing. This article just goes to show that DNA can answer current question about crimes, relationships and health but it can also help us look into our past.

Scientists have used DNA lurking inside the teeth of medieval Black Death victims to figure out the entire genetic code of the deadly bacterium that swept across Europe more than 600 years ago, killing an estimated half of the population…

People back then had no access to modern antibiotics and were likely weakened by other infections as well.

Poinar says the ancient Black Death DNA looks so similar to Yersinia pestis that still infects people today that researchers believe the medieval strain must be the ancestor of all modern strains.

The Natural History Museum of Denmark’s Thomas Gilbert says the insights that come from these studies will be of interest not only from a historical perspective, but also to help scientists understand how deadly epidemics have emerged in the past so that they can get ready for what might come in the future.

For the full story see: Decoded DNA Reveals Details Of Black Death

While this field of research might not seem very practical at first glance there is a wealth of knowledge about, diseases, bacteria and the ways we interact with them and how they spread and change.

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Top Cause Of Oral Cancer Found To Be A Virus Passed During Oral Sex

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:08 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I just came across an article released by NPR by Peggy Grishman regarding new research the above topic. While not about DNA specifically, I felt it contained important information to share with my readers.

Researchers studying the human papilloma virus say that in the United States HPV causes 64% of oropharynxl cancers.

And the more oral sex someone has had — and the more partners they’ve had — the greater their risk of getting these cancers, which grow in the middle part of the throat. “An individual who has six or more lifetime partners — on whom they’ve performed oral sex – has an eightfold increase in risk compared to someone who has never performed oral sex,” said Dr. Maura Gillison of Ohio State University a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

After reading this article it made complete sense we tend to think of HPV as a woman’s health issue but there is no rule that cancer can’t spread or that it is confined to one specific part of the body. In fact we know that just the opposite is true, so why would this one type be confined?  The question now do we start to vaccinate boys as well as girls against this type of cancer?

For the full story see: NPR

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At Home DNA Tests To Predict Kids’ Athletic Skills?

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:27 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The newest in your child’s athletic careers might just be a genetic test to see what sports they may be suited for. The parent simply swabs the inside of the child’s mouth and sends the cotton swab off to the company for analysis. The tests are reported to be able to:

• Give coaches and parents early information about their child’s predisposition for success in team or individual sports.
• Can be used to help developing a personalized training and conditioning program necessary for athletic and sport development.

The real question is are these claims fact or fiction? What makes an athlete?  When evaluating athletes, amateurs or professional, you need to look at combination of physical, mental and social attributes. Unfortunately these test can cause children or their parents to push for extreme sports regiments with out looking at the mental and physical effects on the child.

Some of the long term effects are due to life-long injuries to areas like back, knee and hip which are often the end result of extreme forms of exercise or adult obesity and the probability of heart disease which can be an unfortunate outcome of the misguided concept of “bulking up.” Rapid weight gain at any age is associated with dramatic increases in abdominal fat, which is linked to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

We continue to believe that now we have discovered the human genome sequence we are able understand how the human body works, and we would be even crazier to think that knowing about a few genes can let us shape the future of a child for any reason not just for sports.

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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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New Study Identifies Risks for Painkiller Addiction

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:04 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012

In a study published on September 2nd in HealthDay News the question of why some people are more likely to become addicted to opioid painkillers (like morphine, codeine or oxycodone) has now been partially unraveled by the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania.

For the study, Geisinger Health System researchers interviewed and analyzed DNA from 705 patients with back pain who were prescribed some kind of opioid painkillers for more than 90 days.

Geisinger Health System researchers found that the group most vulnerable to addiction has four main risk factors in common: age (being younger than 65); a history of depression; prior drug abuse; and using psychiatric medications. Painkiller addiction rates among patients with these factors are as high as 26 percent.

The researchers also looked at a gene located at chromosome 15 that had been linked with alcohol, cocaine and nicotine addiction. This study indicates that genetic mutations on a gene cluster on chromosome 15 may also be associated with opioid addiction.

According to Joseph Boscarino, an epidemiologist and a senior investigator at Geising’s Center for Health Research, “these findings suggest that patients with pre-existing risk factors are more likely to become addicted to painkillers, providing the foundation for further clinical evaluation.”  He Added, “by assessing patients in chronic pain for these risk factors before prescribing painkillers, doctors will be better able to treat their patients’ pain without the potential for future drug addiction.”

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UCLA Scientists Link Gene To Autism Risk

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:44 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012

Classic autism strikes boys four times more often than girls, with the inclusion of milder variations (Asperger syndrome) boys are ten times more likely than girls to be diagnosed than girls.

UCLA Scientists link genetic variant to autism risk. This discovery may explain the gap in autism cases between boys and girls. Dr. Stanley Nelson, professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and his team narrowed their research on a region of chromosome 17 that previous studies have tied to autism. In that region they discovered a variant of a gene (a gene that is essentially the same as another, but has mutational differences) called CACNA1G. Dr. Stanley Nelson and his team looked at the DNA of 1,046 members of families with at least two sons affected by autism for common gene variants.

According to Dr. Stanley Nelson, “We wanted to identify what was happening in this region of chromosome 17 that boosts autism risk. When the same genetic markers kept cropping up in a single region of the DNA, we knew we had uncovered a big clue.”

The researcher team traced the genetic markers to CACNA1G. CACNA1G helps move calcium between cells. They discovered a common variant that appears in the DNA of nearly 40 percent of the population studied.

“This alternate form of CACNA1G consistently increased the correlation to autism spectrum disorders, suggesting that inheriting the gene may heighten a child’s risk of developing autism,” Nelson said, but he emphasized that it cannot be considered a risk factor on its own. “This variant is a single piece of the puzzle,” he said. “We need a larger sample size to identify all of the genes involved in autism and to solve the whole puzzle of this disease.”

This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and Cure Autism Now. The DNA samples were provided by the Los Angeles–based Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE).

For more information see:

UCLA Newsroom

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Ion Personal Genome Machine

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:31 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012

The Ion Personal Genome Machine while still only designed for research use at this time and “not intended for animal or human therapeutic or diagnostic use” will be able to sequence DNA and has an IPod docking station.  The Ion Personal Genome Machine can be used to explore a genome and check on the status of given sequencing run with either an IPhone or IPod Touch. While still impractical it is a huge leap in DNA Technology.  Currently the fastest and newest DNA sequencer is the HiSeq 2000. That it still takes a day to run a DNA sequence, as well as being the about the size of a dishwasher.ion-pgm-12-22-2010

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