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Home DNA Testing

News and insights in the world of DNA and genetics for paternity, immigration and forensics

Archive for December, 2010 Monthly Archives

In 2007 Bert Riddick escaped a child-support order for a girl he says he has never met and has proof that he is not her father.  Thanks to a 2004 California Law.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill to allow men to challenge the paternity of children for whom they owe support.  A similar law came before Governor Davis in 2002 but he chose to veto it. In explaining his veto, Davis said that if AB 2240 became law the state might not meet federal requirements on collecting child-support payments, putting California at risk of losing $40 million in federal funds.

After Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the new bill into law Carnell Smith, founder of the U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud based out of Decatur, GA stated, “It’s well overdue.”  His orgonization counts California as the 24th state with some type of “paternity fraud” law.  The California law will help thousands of men who have been assigned child support orders “by default,” as well as  men who signed “confessions of paternity” said Mr. Smith.  This is a personal issue for Mr. Smith, who successfully lobbied for a “paternity fraud” law in Georgia after discovering he was paying for a child he did not father.

California’s new law sets time limits on paternity challenges like many other paternity fraud laws. In California Men can file protests within two years of being ordered to pay child support or within two years of the child’s birth.

Men such as Mr. Riddick, who have known for years they are supporting someone else’s child, also will now be able to challenge their child-support orders under the law.

Advocates said that, the California law passed the Legislature with virtually unanimous support because it was a compromise bill.  A stronger “paternity fraud” bill had been offered in the state Senate, according to lawyer Marc Angelucci, a leader of the National Coalition of Free Men. However, the Senate bill, was opposed by California child- support officials as well as feminist groups who viewed it as a “get-out-of-jail-free card.”

There has been a growing sence of alarmed among Feminist and child-support groups concerning the growing support for what they refer to as the paternity “disestablishment.” They argue that biology is not always paramount in family relationships, and ending established support for a child is rarely in the child’s best interest.

Stories like Mr. Riddick’s are not uncommon.  He stated that he was assigned a child support payment by default after an ex-girlfriend named him the father of her child. Mr. Riddick said he found out he wasn’t the father in 1996 two years after the child support order went into effect when he was arrested as “a deadbeat dad.” The criminal-court judge ordered DNA testing for Mr. Riddick, the mother and the child. “It showed I had a 0 percent chance of being the father of this child,” he said.

The criminal-court judge threw out the charge, but when Mr. Riddick tried to get his child- support order overturned in civil court, state officials refused.  ”They said the criminal court case had nothing to do with the civil case and I would still have to pay child support for 18 years,” Mr. Riddick said. “And I’ve never even seen this kid.”

While many states have started to enact paternity fraud laws and allow men to challenge paternity not all do.  You need to know your states individual paternity laws and seek help if you find your self in over your head.

Reported in the New York Times on Monday, public prosecutors in Berlin are investigating allegations that staff in some German embassies took bribes in exchange for issuing visas.

According the the Foreign Ministry local staff in German embassies in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa have issued visas in exchange for money and have overlooked false statemenst and did not properly review applications. These allegations have already brought about the dissmisal of some employees and investications are ongoing.

Police suspect that human trafficking networks seeking to bring women to work as prostitutes where being run from with in Germany and were using bribes to gain visas.  Officials cannot say how many visas were issued in exchange for bribes.

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

Humanitarian efforts are delicate issues, and the U.S. State Department’s suspended East African family-reunification is a prime example. The program, known as Priority Three (P3), was instituted to reunify families from civil war-torn areas with relatives living in the U.S..  The program was suspended in March of 2008 and has not been reopened at this time.

According to the State Department in February of 2009:

There are currently three priorities or categories of cases that have access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Priority One and Two applicants are granted access to the program through an individual referral by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. Embassy or qualified NGO, or by membership in a group of cases designated as having access to the program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement. Priority Three, or P-3, refers to individual cases from eligible nationalities who are granted access for purposes of family reunification with certain legal residents in the United States.

The State Department decided to preform DNA test on the P-3 starting with the embassy in Kenya to test for fraud.  What they discovered is that the rate of fraud varied from country to country but they were able to confirm biological relationships between fewer than 20% of the cases tested (family units outside the U.S.).

The suspension of this program effects families in a variety of locations including:  Afghanistan,  Bhutan,  Burma,  Burundi,  Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),  Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC),  Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

As of October 22, 2008, the Department of State stopped accepting Affidavits of Relationship (AORs) for all nationalities. Although in locations where there is no evidence of fraud (Bangkok, Cairo, Havana, Ho Chi Minh City, Istanbul, Kathmandu, Moscow, and Vienna) there are a small number of AORs that were submitted and cleared prior to March 2008 are being processed. No new applications will be accepted for any nationality at this time.

This does not mean that the State Department has not been working to assist the refugee populations seeking admittance to the U.S.  According to the State Department:

We continue to work closely with UNHCR to determine which African refugee populations are appropriate candidates for group and individual referrals. For example, we recently authorized the processing of several thousand Eritrean refugees in a camp in Ethiopia and continue to receive P-1 (individual) referrals of Congolese, Burundians, Somalis, and other African nationalities.

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Amelia_Earhart

Three bones found on Nikumaroro Island a remote island in the South Pacific by a group that recovers historic aircraft might prove to be those of Amelia Erhart.  The DNA from the bone fragments will be compared to samples donated by an anonymous member of Earhart’s family.

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma are hoping that DNA will prove the remains belong to the legendary pilot.

Ric Gillespie, director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery in Delaware said, “There’s no guarantee. You only have to say you have a bone that may be human and may be linked to Earhart and people get excited. But it is true that, if they can get DNA, and if they can match it to Amelia Earhart’s DNA, that’s pretty good.”

In a 2007 trip to Nikumaroro, personal items were found, as well as the remains of a campsite.  ”Bird and fish remains around the island suggest a Westerner’s style of eating.”These fish weren’t eaten like Pacific Islanders” eat fish, Gillespie said.

Researcher have said that it will take months before they can speak with any certainty about their findings.

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By Brooke Hayles

What do you think of when you hear about DNA testing? Is it specified testing that looks for DNA sequences? Your genetic information is inside every cells.

Deoxyribonucleic acid is the scientific name for DNA, and it determines each cells behavior, function, and structure. What is great about DNA is that not only can it tell the identity of a person, and their relationship to others, but it can also give information about thousands of genetic conditions and diseases. Because DNA testing is becoming cheaper, it is becoming more popular.

There are many uses of DNA testing, such as to establish paternity. Paternity can also be established in an unborn child. This is done with amniocentesis or CVS (Chorionic Villi Sampling). The CVS test is generally done in the early stages of a pregnancy between ten to thirteen weeks along. While the amniocentesis is generally done between the fourteenth and twenty-fourth weeks of pregnancy.

Breakthroughs with DNA testing happen often. One DNA tests that has been gaining in popularity is ancestry DNA testing. Our DNA comes from both of our parents. Most areas of our DNA go through changes. However, there are some areas of the DNA do not change at all or change very slowly. By looking at the changes and at the DNA that does not change, ancestry testing is able to link many generations together and reconstruct the history of families.

DNA testing has also become popular with people who have been adopted. DNA testing can allow them to trace their ancestors and find biological parents.

To perform most kinds of DNA testing, a cotton swab is rubbed on the inside of the clients’ mouth.  It is painless, easy, and quick, this means even a baby can undergo testing. The cheek swab contains skin cells that have the same DNA material that is in blood. Then the swab is sent to the laboratory to analyze the DNA in the cells, and determine if there is a match between the people participating in that test.

DNA is also used to solve crimes. DNA testing has been used to prove guilt or innocent in those that stand accused of crimes.

DNA testing has been used to conduct an evaluation of health risks and health. The tests can even aid a person in loss by defining foods they crave.

By Alvaro Castillo

Learning begins in the home.  The most important lessons are learned at home and parents are the first teachers. Children learn about their world and how to be a good person starting the day they are born. A child’s sense of self comes from how their parents treat them and respond to them and each other.

Experts in child development often advise parents to tune in to their children from an early age. Children’s self-esteem is nurtured early in life as they interact with their parents in a positive environment. When a child gets into trouble, parents often blame themselves for being too lenient or too strict with them. Some parents will even blame the child for being naughty or disobedient.

The truth is, children are the products of either good parenting or bad parenting.  This does not mean that their parents are good or bad people. We make mistakes with our children, and often we are not aware of better ways to teach our children because we are also the products of good or bad parenting.

Often parents can do a better job with their children when they understand the different stages of a child’s development. As children mature, parents need to manage their children’s behaviour differently. You cannot talk to your teenager as you talked to your six year old. Listen to what your child says and find ways to support them.

Communication plays a vital role in our daily interactions with all family members. We need to understand what they hear and see, and be able to send messages in ways that they can understand and accept. Children need adults to guide them in choosing the right words to express themselves. Teaching by example is the most effective tool for parents.

Many parents have found that their words fall on deaf ears when they do not act in a manner that is consistent with what they say. A mother of two school-aged boys remarked that today’s teenagers are easily influenced by their peers. She feared for her children’s welfare. She wondered how she can protect her sons from negative influences.

Children tend to draw closer to their peers when their parents refuse to acknowledge them or listen to them. Their peers, on the other hand, make them feel accepted and loved. They never question them or belittle their ideas.

Self-esteem is how a person feels and thinks about themselves. Feeling loved, valued, wanted and respected will make children feel good about who they are. Parents can create such an environment for their children to grow up in. Once your children are confident, they can try new things and explore their world.

Parents must allow their children to make mistakes so that they can learn what they can do to succeed. Just like when a toddler learns to walk, they will fall many times before they achieve success. Once they manage to walk, they will experience an overwhelming sense of pride.   Many children feel unloved because they are scolded or punished frequently.

The foundation of their relationship with their parents is built on fear and violence. While parents consider their acts of punishments as a form of discipline, their children do not share this understanding. They cannot accept the fact that their parents inflict pain on them to teach them a lesson.

As children grow, parents must be prepared to allow them to take charge of their behavior. When parents respect their children for their sense of independence, children will live up to parental expectations.

In today’s world, our children need to know that being different is acceptable. We do not want our children to be carbon-copies. We want them to have their own likes and dislikes. They should not feel the need to submit to societal pressure to look the same and talk the same way.

Back in the 1700s, the best way to determine who a persons father was, was by taking a good hard look at the child, followed by a good hard look at the father. If there were enough coincidences then maybe a relationship could be possible. by the 1800s, it was discovered that eye color could be a paternity identifier. With recent DNA advances we have learned that the eye color theory is flawed. We now know that eye colour is determined by at least six different alleles, or genetic markers. Fortunately paternity testing has become a lot easier and much more affordable over the past few years due to advances in DNA science.

Although an estimated 200,000 DNA tests are conducted each year by states needing to determine child-support and welfare issues, not as many people are willing to conduct their own at-home paternity test because they don’t realize the simplicity and convenience of an at-home paternity test.

How does home DNA testing work?

Paternity testing requires a painless sample from both the child and possible father. Even without a sample from the mother, DNA paternity test results are up to 99.9% accurate. Most companies provide testing material which they will mail directly to you so that you can provide the samples.

Because of advances in DNA testing it is no longer necessary to draw blood. Buccal (mouth) swabs are the standard. These swabs have the same genetic information that is carried in blood but none of the hazards. By gently massaging the inside of the child’s mouth, cheek cells are collected. These cells are then sent to the lab for testing. Labs analyze up to sixteen genetic markers of the child and match them against the markers of the alleged father. Because each of us receives half our genetic markers from each parent, the results of DNA paternity testing are still accurate without the DNA information of the mother but a really good test will include the mother this helps insure that there is no chance of a false positive.

What else can a DNA test do?

DNA test kits can also be used to analyze sibling relationships, establish cousin or grandparent relationships, determine twin zygosity (i.e. whether twins are fraternal or identical), identify ancestral origin, verify Native American decent, assure parents they left the hospital with the right baby, and most important, provide legal evidence – be prepared to pay a bit more for legal tests. Legal tests can be used to settle adoption issues, settle child-support disputes, and provide information for immigration files. Legal tests can not be preformed using a home test kit.

How to choose a DNA laboratory

  • Accreditation is a vital part of choosing a laboratory. Accredited labs have an annual audit and inspection, undergo internal and external reviews, and have their equipment calibrated for accuracy. Look for an ISO and/or AABB certification. Accredited labs will have a good reputation and near 100% track record for court cases.
  • Make sure you understand all the fees.  Keep an eye out for hidden fees. Some companies will charge you for the kit and then charge you again for the results.  This is especially true of kits purchased at a pharmacy or store.
  • Double check when you order your kit that you’re only buying the results you need.  If you need a test for any official purpose (changing a name or birth certificate) Make sure you are getting a legal test.
  • Ask about privacy. Make sure that your identity and intentions are kept secure.

Enjoy piece of mind. Be confident that the questions you have can be answered and that DNA testing is safe easy and stress-free.

By Alvaro Castillo

Holidays are traditionally depicted as a special time of the year for families. They are suppose to be a time together. When a divorce or separation occurs, many parents and children find themselves feeling confused, disappointed, conflicted, angry and frustrated. During this time of the year, it is important to remember special occasions do not have to be emotionally stressful provided parents are able to put their children’s needs first.

Below are some pointers on how to make your holidays less stressful for you and your kids.

* Realize that you may need to adjust your expectations.

* Try to stay focused on your children’s needs and how your decisions regarding the holidays will directly impact them. Especially think about what kinds of memories you want your children to have and what will be most important to them.

* Keep children informed about plans. Ask them for their impute on those plans.

* Children need to know where they are going to be for special occasions and with whom. Support your children having contact with the other parent or extended family members during their time with you.

* Avoid conflict with the other parent.

* Remember what’s most important to children is not who they spend their special day with, but rather that their parents are not fighting about who they will be with for the holidays. While sharing the holiday can be challenging, for the sake of children, pick your battles carefully and try to minimize tensions.

* If you are traveling with the children, provide the other parent with your itinerary. Provide the other parent with details of when and where the children will be, as well as, how they can contact them while you are away from home.

* Help your children make or buy gifts for their other parent. Children need to experience the joy of giving. This will also send a message to your children that you support their relationship with the other parent.

* Allow children the opportunity to talk about past holidays. Remember children have a right to good memories of their family before the divorce or separation. Make sure you are supportive of their feelings about how things have changed.

* Let children know that even though the holidays will be different, they can still be special. Invite children to help establish new holiday rituals with you. It’s okay to have different ways of celebrating the holidays in each home. You may also want to talk with them about previous traditions and brainstorm with your children ways to combine old and new traditions.

* Try not to let guilt get the best of you during the holidays. Often parents feel guilty about how hard divorce can be for kids. Sometimes we may react to that guilt by overindulging our children with gifts during the holidays.

* Avoid getting into a gift competition with your ex or purchasing gifts for your children that you know the other parent wouldn’t approve of or want in their home. When possible, try to coordinate gift choices with the other parent.

* Give gifts with no strings attached. Even though it can sometimes be very difficult, allow your children to decide at which home they would like to keep their gifts, even if it is not your own.

* Try to maintain a sense of humor and stay flexible. Sometimes plans may need to be altered or revised to accommodate your children’s needs. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When faced with a decision that seems very important it may help to ask yourself what difference will this make one year from now?

* Use times when you are not with your children in a positive way. Spending the holidays without your children can be difficult. Make plans with close friends, family members or take time to do something special for yourself.

* Minimize tension for your children as much as possible.

* Don’t make your children responsible for communicating events to the other parent for the holidays. Only engage in cooperative activities with the other parent, for example, opening presents Christmas morning, if it will be a positive experience for children. It is essential that conflict or tension between parents be managed appropriately.

* If you are not the parent who is with your children for the holidays, use this time to care for yourself and let your kids know you will be okay. Your children will worry how you are going to handle the holidays. Reassure them that even though this holiday will be different, you will be okay. Encourage them to have a good time with the other parent. Let them know what your plans will be for the holiday.

* If you have the children for the holiday, be aware they might miss the parent that isn’t there. Holidays are traditionally viewed as special time spent with family, which may stir up lots of feelings for your children. Make sure they can call or talk to the other parent if they want to.

* Focus on rebuilding a sense of family.

* Talk with children about what makes the holidays special for them and discuss how you can enjoy your time together.

* Remember time spent with children does not have to be extravagant. It’s not about what you spend, but rather how the time is spent.

Success Rates for DNA Extraction from Non-Standard Samples

In my previous post, we looked at some of the more common types non-standard samples used to obtain DNA from an individual for DNA testing purposes. In this article we will look at DNA how successful a laboratory can be extracting DNA profiles from the various types of samples and how these can vary from one sample to another.

It is possible to fail to obtain sufficient DNA from a buccal swab, for reasons such as:  the swabbing was not adequately performed, the swabs grow mold due to damp storage conditions, bacteria destroys a damp sample or a person just does not give off much DNA during the swabbing process. These cases are rare and problems with this type of sample are normally less than 2%.

Non standard samples, however, can present a greater problem when exacting DNA to create a profile.  Laboratories cannot guarantee that a DNA profile will be obtained from any sample submitted.  Depending on the nature of the sample, there are differing probabilities of success in extracting DNA from each type of sample (in some cases a percentage probability of success is provided).  For the purpose of this article we have broken the samples in to three categories, High, Medium and Low.

High (80% average can be higher or lower) : Samples such as finger nail or toe nail clippings, fresh blood stains or hairs with root  and follicle where, for a qualified and experienced DNA laboratory, extracting DNA is considered relatively straightforward. In such cases, as long as the sample is handled properly both during collection and delivery to the laboratory, one can expect a high probability of success in extracting DNA.

Medium (50%-60% average can be higher or lower) : Samples such as a toothbrush or cigarette butts -  the success rate is influenced by a number of variables including heavy use vs light use and/or storage conditions etc. Therefore a heavily smoked cigarette butt found in an ashtray at home is more likely to result in a successful DNA extraction than a lightly smoked cigarette that has been thrown on the street and exposed to the elements, such as terrain, wind and moisture or rain.

Low (20% – 30% average can be higher or lower) Samples such as teeth or bone, where extracting DNA is a relatively difficult and time consuming process, these normally need to be handled by a highly specialized laboratory, such as ours. In these cases, the individual should consult the laboratory first to check their level of expertise, if they will accept the sample and the cost.

The classification above is however only a guideline, since as we have seen it is not just the type of sample that is important but also other variables can have an influence such as :

1. Poor storage conditions (e.g. damp environment, extreme heat,  etc.).

2. Poor sample handling (possible contamination with other DNA or dirt by touching the sample).

3. Not enough DNA present (e.g. heavily used toothbrush vs used once only).

4. Age of the sample. DNA will degrade over time.

It is also important to note that the success rate will also depend heavily on the ability of the laboratory performing the test. Not all laboratories that can perform DNA Paternity testing on normal swabs are capable of obtaining DNA from a wide variety of non-standard sample. The more difficult the sample (e.g. teeth and bone), the greater the specialization and experience required to increase the chance of a successful DNA extraction. It is important to make sure that that lab that is performing the work is accredited to do so.

Finally, it is also important to note that with non-standard samples there is always a risk that the extraction will not work. Therefore any person considering submitting such a sample, especially where it may be only a limited sample available (e.g. person is dead), should take this into consideration. Selection of an experienced laboratory (possibly of forensic specialization) will help minimize this risk by educating you on the best sample to submit so that you do not waste both time and money.

For more information, please call our company directly.