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
In a move that seems deceptively futuristic, but is in fact a sign of the times, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania based Martin Guitar Company is making waves in their industry by including botanical genetic coding in the body of their instruments.
Generations of the Martin family have been proudly making guitars since 1833. The current management, headed by Chairman and CEO Christian Frederick Martin IV, recently decided that, in an attempt to continue to fight for their otherwise stellar reputation, they will implant each new instrument with a DNA tag designed to thwart counterfeiters and send a message that they will not watch their company’s reputation diluted by cheap knockoffs, coming predominately out of China.
Gregory Paul, the company’s vice president of operations said, ”"The Martin family has always been vocal about fighting overseas counterfeiters. They have had a particularly hard time persuading the Chinese Government to prosecute imitators who have been selling inferior products under the C.F. Martin name.” “The Internet makes it too easy for a counterfeiter or their distributor to offer even a handful of units to a very broad audience. Ads for these sites crop up every day.”
The genetic tagging was developed by Applied DNA Sciences a company from Stony Brook, N.Y., which pioneered the technology allowing manufacturers to mark their products with a unique trace of plant DNA. According to a spokesman for the company ”The DNA tag itself can be put into anything in the production process it can be put into ink, for labels on wine bottles. It can be put into glue or varnish or just about anything.”
Applied DNA is also working with the Department of Defense to put tags on microchip components that go into weapons systems in order to combat counterfeit chips that have been making their way into the military supply chain.
What we wonder is how, exactly, the instruments will be tested for authenticity and how much it will cost to do so. Furthermore, if DNA/genetic coding can be found in the guitar and used for genetic testing to confirm authenticity, then won’t counterfeiters be able to obtain and replicate the DNA from the instrument(s) and apply it to their own?
Big questions for a big future in genetics…
New Hope for Old Cases: Full DNA Profile of Ted Bundy Now Available
Twenty Two years after Ted Bundy’s execution, and at least 30 dead, a full DNA profile of Bundy is now available though CODIS the FBI DNA database. It is hoped that his profile can bring closure to open homicide cases nation wide.
DNA was extracted from a vial of blood discovered in a courthouse where it had been stored for the last three decades. The profile was assembled by David Coffman, chief of forensics at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Coffman says that police departments can now enter DNA evidence they might have from cold cases into the system and see if there is any match with Mr. Bundy’s DNA
Coffman also said in an interview that he typically receives four or five calls a year from investigators located nation-wide asking about Bundy’s DNA in connection with unsolved cases. He went on to state that until now there has been no full DNA profile available. Because of the length of time Bundy was actively killing, and because he was active on both the west and the east coasts, many investigators would like to confirm or eliminate him as a suspect. Unfortunately, his crimes took place well before the advent of DNA technology and therefore, his DNA was not secured before his death. In 2002 a partial DNA profile was created from a tissue sample taken during Bundy’s autopsy, but the profile from the tissue sample was not complete enough to enter into the F.B.I. database CODIS. Until now.
Coffman’s department was contacted earlier this year by the Tacoma Washington Police Department for a cold case that involved an 8-year-old girl who disappeared from her house in 1961. They suspected Bundy because he was living in Tacoma at the time and alway claimed that he got is start as a teen. He was 14 at the time. Bundy denied responsibility for her disappearance.
Coffman’s department made an effort to extract DNA from two dental molds held at the department’s forensics laboratory. The impressions, which had been taken in the 1970s, matched bite marks on the left buttock of 20-year-old Lisa Levy, one of two students at Florida State University Mr. Bundy was convicted of killing. But the DNA in the dental molds was too degraded to use for a profile.
Coffman’s department then started calling contacts around Florida to see if any evidence might still exist that could contain DNA. Fortunately, a vial of blood was found in the evidence vault at the Columbia County courthouse. The blood had been taken in 1978 in connection with the death of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach in Lake City, Fla., the third murder Mr. Bundy was convicted for.
Despite being 33 years old, the sample was perfect and a full profile was created and uploaded into the F.B.I.’s DNA database, CODIS.
According to Coffman, at this time there have been no hits on any cold cases. The Tacoma police hope to test any DNA they can find from the Burr case against the Bundy profile. Cold-case detective in the Tacoma Police Department’s homicide unit, Gene Miller said his office was shipping biological material from the Burr house to the state’s crime laboratory and that if DNA can be extracted, it would then be uploaded into the F.B.I.’s database. He and his office feel that this could be ”a huge step forward,” Detective Miller said. Even if it does not, “it will still be a great step forward,” because it will finally eliminate or confirm him as a suspect. It is likely that police departments in other areas where Bundy passed through will do the same.
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.
Clonaid™ a company that claims to be a provider of reproductive human cloning services announced that a baby born on December 26th, 2002 was the first cloned baby. The baby, called Eve, is reported to be a clone of her mother. The company provided no pictures of the baby and no names of the parents were offered, not even a vague location of their whereabouts. By 2004 Clonaid had claimed the successful birth of 13 health cloned babies.
Cloning creates a new individual using only one person’s DNA. The process is technically difficult but conceptually simple. Scientists remove the genetic material from an unfertilized egg, then introduce new DNA from a cell of the animal to be cloned. Under the proper conditions, the egg begins dividing into new cells according to the instructions in the introduced DNA.
Cloning experts have said they need to see DNA evidence done by independent experts before they believe Clonaid’s claims. As of yet this has not happened. In 2003, it appeared that the world might get the evidence of cloning when freelance TV journalist and former ABC-TV science editor Michael Guillen, said he had chosen an expert who will draw DNA samples from the Eve and her mother. Guillen, said he had no links to Clonaid and was not being paid for his work. He had picked, two “world-class, independent DNA testing labs,” where other experts will look for a match between the samples. Unfortunately the samples and the testing never appeared.
At this point human cloning is still an unfounded claim and a hot topic of debate. Clonaid’s announcement created a flood of questions: ethical, medical, political, religious — some which belonged solely to the field of science fiction up to this point it appears. Their announcement also created a flurry of legislation and/or guidelines to ban human cloning have been introduced or passed in dozens of nations, including the United States. While many countries, including Britain, Israel, Japan and Germany, already have banned human cloning.
Amanda Knox is an American woman convicted for the December 2009 murder of a British student studying in Italy. Italian officials claimed that Amanda Knox murdered Meredith Kercher in a drug-fueled sex game that turned violent. Amanda Knox has repeatedly protested her innocence and is appealing the sentence. Meredith Kercher was found in November of 2007 in her room in the cottage she shared with Knox.
Curt Knox, the father of Amanda Knox, told reporters on May 18th that DNA experts for the his daughter’s appeal were missing key information that was being held by Italian police. When speaking with the AFP Curt stated, “The independent experts have made requests for specific information from the forensic police related to the DNA testing of the knife in particular… this data is not being provided.”
According to Amanda Knox’s father, the independent experts appointed to review key forensic evidence had not been given access to all the evidence. He stated in an email that, ”They have requested the “row data” which in DNA testing is a vital part of the process of testing. I’m told that this data is not being provided and this is the reason for the independent experts to request an extension to filing their final report.”
In the process of appealing Knox’s case, fresh DNA tests were ordered on the presumed murder weapon and a bra clip found at the scene. The DNA team had 90 days to review the evidence but are likely to use the May 21st hearing to request additional time to submit their final report.
Curt Knox said that, “Amanda is not afraid of the truth.” He added, ”it will be interesting to understand why the forensic police are not willing to provide the independent experts the information they feel is necessary in order to provide a fully reviewed final report.”
According to Curt Knox after visiting Amanda in prison, “She is holding up as well as you would expect for a person who has been in prison now for three-and-a-half years for a crime she didn’t commit and still has faith in the Italian Justice system to seek the truth in her appeals trial.”
I thought that the “Is It Local?” comedic skit on the television show, Portlandia, took local dining to a new extreme. However, I recently came across an article about consumers who are willing to pay for a DNA test to confirm the source of their meet. This demand has pushed DNA tested, traceable, meat onto restaurant menus.
DNA-traceable meat is not a new technology, as it has been used in Europe and other countries for decades, but has been slow to catch on in America. This is beginning to change according to industry experts. These experts say that DNA-traceable meat can pay off in multiple ways, including boosting consumer confidence, upping the value of a dinner, and cutting the time needed to track recalled meats.
Tracy Tonning, executive chef at Blackstone restaurant in Iowa City, Iowa thinks that “People want to know where their food is coming from and this gives you a perfect avenue for you to go ahead and find out. You can trace it back to where it came from, where it was raised… It’s a security factor for the guest, as well as the chef.” Blackstone resturant is one of more than 11,000 locations being supplied with DNA-traceable beef by Richmond-based food distributor Performance Food Group. Performance Food Group is able to do DNA tracing because it is using smaller suppliers dedicated to producing meat for the company.
Performance Food Group tested their products in some of the steakhouses it supplies, as well as surveying outside other restaurants. These surveys and tests showed consumers were willing to pay $2 or $3 more for the same cut meat if various “pleasers” were added — a higher quality of meat, traceability, as well as how the animals were treated and fed. This value only came if the customer knew about it.
Phil Lempert, a food marketing expert says that DNA-traceable meat is ”really good marketing. The awareness in general is, in my opinion, at the highest level it’s ever been — from a health stand point, from a food safety standpoint. We really need to rebuild confidence in our food and technologies like this help that.”
The process work because workers take DNA samples at processing point as well as other places along the supply chain. The samples are gathered to determine the specific animals each product came from. In addition information kept by farmers and others involved in the raising and processing of the animals can be added to give a more complete history.
In addition to rebuilding confidence in our food chain DNA tracing would also provide a faster way to identify the source of contaminated meat in the event of a recall. This could speed up the process from weeks or months to just hours. For example, it can identify the multiple animals whose parts were used in ground beef. Ground beef can be made up of meat from 1,000 different animals in a 10-pound box. DNA-tracing could point to particular animals and could even reduce the amount of meat affected by recalls, which generally are tremendously costly for producers, suppliers and others.
Bill A-2594, that passed the New Jersey Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and now heads to the full Assembly, will increase law enforcement’s crime-fighting powers buy requiring DNA samples from individuals arrested on suspicion of certain violent crimes. An identical version of the bill has already been approved by the Senate today.
Bill A-2594 amends New Jersey’s “DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994” so that it requires DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of crimes. These include: murder; manslaughter; second degree aggravated assault; attempts to or causes serious bodily injury to another, or causes bodily injury while fleeing or attempting to flee a law enforcement officer; kidnapping; luring or enticing a child; engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of a child; or aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault; aggravated criminal sexual contact; criminal sexual contact, or an attempt to commit any of these offenses.
The New Jersey bill stipulates that if the charges against a person from whom a DNA sample was collected are dismissed, or if a person is acquitted at trial, the sample and the profile would be destroyed, and all related records expunged, upon request by that individual.
The bill also gives law enforcement the teeth to be able to ensure compliance by making it a crime for any person who knowingly refuses to submit to the collection of a blood or biological sample. The penalty would be a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
This bill will start to work with the FBI’s current index of DNA profiles. The FBI uses a system called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) which provides for the storage and exchange of law enforcement DNA records on a national basis. CODIS consists of two separate indexes. The first is a “forensic” index containing DNA profiles from crime scene evidence. The second is an “offender” index, with DNA profiles of convicted offenders. It also allows for an electronic comparison of the DNA profiles from those two indexes. Often “hits” (matches) between DNA found at crime scenes and DNA profiles of convicted offenders are made. Analysts can also link multiple or unsolved crimes to a single perpetrator by comparing profiles in both indexes.
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.
That’s right April 25th is National DNA Day. It was proclaimed by both the US Senate and the House of Representative in 2003 and while you might not have the day off you might want to stop and think about just what DNA has done for us.
DNA Day is a remembrance of the day in 1953 when a gound breaking article on the structure of DNA was published as well as the the day that the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003.
DNA has made big changes in our lives whether we know it or not. So this April take some time to think about DNA and some of it’s many uses:
1. In archeology DNA helps record genetic information of life on earth many centuries ago. This creates a data base that can be used to learn more about our planets past.
2. Genetic testing is used to determine the paternity or maternity of a child.
3. DNA testing can be used to help create a family tree or genealogical chart. Through genetic data bases one can trace lost relatives or find ancestors. Using both the Y chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA people can use DNA testing to establish ancestral lines (both remain unchanged for generations).
4. Prenatal genetic tests can help doctors determine whether or not the unborn fetus will have certain health problems.
5. DNA tests are also used to help solve murders and other crimes. In recent years many unsolved mysteries have been solved due to new ways of analysis as well as clearing many people found guilty of crimes that the did not commit.
6. DNA testing finds great use in the health field as DNA sometimes is the cause of rare medical conditions or heritable diseases.
7. Genetic testing is used in healths checks. For example it can be used to help determine the presence of viruses or cells that have mutated (causing cancer).
8. DNA tests are often used to reunite lost siblings or families or identify remains of the unknown. The genetics of a person leaves an indelible mark and this is used by police, military and authorities as well as individuals to confirm relationships.
9. DNA tests on new species or on material from outer space help scientists and researchers determine the origins of a species and where they stand with reference to known living forms.