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

Archive for January, 2011 Monthly Archives

Ozzy Osbourne is the first rock star to give his DNA to science.  As reported in Scientific American in October 2010 Ozzy Osbourne has become one of the few to have their entire genome sequenced.  Osbourne’s DNA was sequenced and analyzed by  Cofactor Genomics and Knome Inc.  According to Knome’s analysis Ozzy Osbourne has some Neandertal in his DNA.

“For a long time we thought that Neandertals didn’t have any descendents today, but it turns out that Asians and Europeans have some evidence of Neandertal lineage—like a drop in the bucket,” Pearson told Scientific American. “We found a little segment on Ozzy’s chromosome 10 that very likely traces back to a Neandertal forebearer.”

Pearson went on to caution that we are very early on in this particular field and that it is going to be sometime before there is enough data to understand the human genome.

Cocoa Plant BeansThe Cacao plant, that makes our beloved chocolate, has officially had it’s DNA sequenced. Oddly enough, more than one team of scientists, both of whom claim they were the first, has completed it.

In 2010, a team of researchers financed by MARS, the candy maker, announced that they had competed the sequencing of the Cacao plant. However, another candy maker, Hershey, also financed a group of scientists who completed and published their findings in the journal “Nature Genetics”. The Hershey team claims that they had completed the task first, yet they did not release their findings first as they wanted to go through the full peer review process before publishing.

Regardless of this Chocolate pioneering augment, the fact is that both teams were first since they sequenced different strains of the cacao plant. The Hershey team sequenced an ancient Mayan variety that was domesticated about 3000 years ago and team MARS sequenced the Matina chocolate plant which is supposed to represent the cultivar from which most cocoa in the world is cultivated.

So, why sequence this plant? Why sequence any plant? That topic is hotly debated. In theory, understanding and gaining genetic insights to cocoa can help aid in creating more disease resistant plants which can help farmers grow more cocoa since they would not be losing as many crops. And, crazy enough, it has been reported that they have also isolated the gene that determines the melting point of chocolate, which could help in a number of ways, including genetically modifying the plant so that scientists can change the melting point for whatever purpose suits a candy maker’s fancy.

Regardless of your feelings and thoughts about the sequencing of this fine plant, the truth is that every plant will eventually be sequenced and it’s no surprise that the chocolate plant was at the top of the list.

(Blog based on reports by the New York Times on December 27, 2010 and Genome Web Daily News on September 15, 2010.)

While pressure mounts on murder squad detectives in Bristol England to solve the murder of Joanna Yeates, Bristol police have pooh-poohed a Labour MP’s call for all men living in Bristol to provide DNA samples in an attempt to solve the case.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, said the need to catch Joanna’s killer overrides the questions of intrusion and  invasion of privacy in a mass screening. And while a tiny forensic trace of Joanna’s suspected killer is believed to have been recovered by crime scene investigators when her body was found in a remote lane on Christmas Day. This potentially precious clue has left senior officers with the tough decision to launch an expensive and manpower-intensive operation to eliminate all the men living in not only Joanne’s neighbourhood in Clifton, but across the city using the latest DNA techniques

McCarthy was quoted saying: “I understand some people think this is an invasion of their privacy but I think most people would understand that city-wide testing could get the killer off the streets. A lot of people are worried about this person still being on the streets in Bristol and it is important they are caught as soon as possible. It is a massive task to do a DNA swab for the whole of the city but I think if it helps catch the killer it is the right thing to do and people will be happy to do this.”

Although such a call is likely to find instant favour with the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” brigade, there are many questions both about the effectiveness and the ethics of such an approach.

A spokeswoman for the Avon and Somerset force told El Regthis morning: “The move to DNA swab all men in the Clifton area is not something that Avon and Somerset Police are considering at this moment in time.”

Most people don’t realize that there are many different types of twins in the world. Not only can you be identical or fraternal twins but you might be one of any number of other type.  Below are some of the most common other types of twin.

1. Conjoined Twins
Conjoined twins are monozygotic multiples that do not fully separate from each other due to the incomplete division of the fertilized ovum. The individuals will be connected at certain points of the body, and may share tissue, organs or limbs.
2. Twins Conceived Separately: Superfetation
Normally when an egg is fertilized, a woman’s cycle is interrupted and ovulation ceases. Rarely, however, an egg can be released while a woman is already pregnant, resulting in twins that are conceived at different times.
More: Superfation
3. Twins with Different Fathers: Heteropaternal Superfecundation
Fraternal (dizygotic) twins are the result of hyperovulation, the release of multiple eggs in a single cycle. Superfecundation describes a situation where the eggs are fertilized by sperm from separate incidences of sexual intercourse. In a case where a woman has sex with different partners, the twins could have different fathers and the apporpriate term is heteropaternal superfecundation.
More: Heteropaternal Superfecundation
4. “Half Identical” Twins: Polar Body Twins
There are two types of twins, right? Dizygotic (fraternal) twins result when two eggs are fertilied. Monozygotic (identical) twins come from a single fertilized egg that splits. But what if the egg splits and then each half meets a sperm? That’s the proposed theory for polar body or “half-identical” twins, twins who are very much alike but aren’t a 100% DNA match. Although it seems to be a reasonable theory, there is no definitive test to confirm polar body twinning.
More: Polar Body Twinning
5. Boy/Girl Identical (Monozygotic) Twins
Identical (monozygotic) twins are always same gender because they form from a single zygote that contains either male (XY) or female (XX) sex chromosome. However, there have been a few reported cases of a genetic mutation in male twins where one twin loses an Y chromosome and develops as a female. The female twin would be afflicted with Turner’s Syndrome, characterized by short stature and lack of ovarian development. Of course, another explanation for gender differences in identical twins is an identical twin who undergoes a sex change operation.
More Info
6. Mirror Image Twins
Mirror image twins are monozygotic, twint that form from a single fertilized egg. When the split occurs late – more than a week after conception – the twins can develop reverse asymmetric features. This term is not really a type of twin, just an way to describe their physical features. For exmample, they may be right- and left-handed, have birthmarks on opposite sides of their body, or have hair whorls that swirl in opposite directions. In theory, if the twins faced each other, they would appear to be exact reflections of each other. About 25% of identical twins are mirror image twins.
More: Mirror Image Twins
7. Parasitic Twins
A type of conjoined tiwns that develops asymmetrically, with a smaller, less formed twin dependent on the stronger, larger twin. Manar Maged gained notoriety after being featured onOprah. A variation of parasitic twinning is fetus in fetu, where an abnormally formed mass of cells grows inside the body of its monozygotic twin. It survives during pregnancy, and even occasionally after birth, by tapping directly into the blood supply of the host twin. This reportdescribes an Indian man whose fetus in fetu was discovered as an adult.
More: Parasitic Twinning and Fetus in Fetu
8. Semi-Identical Twins
A type of twinning identified in a pair of three-year-old twins in 2007. Described as identical on the mother’s side but sharing only half their father’s genes, the rare twins developed when two sperm fertilized a single egg, which then split. One twin is a hermaphrodite being raised as a female, with both testicular and ovarian structures, while the other is anatomically male.
9. Twins with Different Birthdays
The most common explanation is a labor and delivery that begins before midnight on one day and ends after the clock changes to the next day. If that day happens at the end of the month, or even on New Year’s Eve/Day, the two babies can have birthdays in different months and even different years! Also, sometimes a pregnancy is prolonged to provide each baby with an optimal chance for survival. If preterm labor forces the delivery of one baby, doctors can successfully control the abor and delay delivery to give the other baby more time in the womb. Twins and higher multiples have been born days and even weeks apart.
More: Twins With Different Birthdays
10. Twins of Different Races
Heteropaternal superfecundation can explain cases of fraternal (dizygotic) twins with differing racial characteristics. In one case, the differentiation was due to a lab mix-up during an in-vitro procedure. However, in 2005 in the United Kingdom, two bi-racial parents conceived fraternal (dizygotic) twin girl twins, Kian and Remee Hodgson. Described as a “one in a million” occurrence, experts explain that the girls inherited different genetic characteristics from their mixed race parents. One is fair-haired and light skinned, while the other has dark hair, eyes and skin.

1. Conjoined Twins are monozygotic multiples that do not fully separate from each other due to the incomplete division of the fertilized ovum. The individuals will be connected at certain points of the body, and may share tissue, organs or limbs.

2. Twins Conceived Separately or Superfetation Twins occurs when an egg is released while a woman is already pregnant, resulting in twins that are conceived at different times.

3. Twins with Different Fathers or Heteropaternal Superfecundation occurs when fraternal (dizygotic) twins which are the product of multiple eggs being released in a single cycle are fertilized by sperm from separate incidences of sexual intercourse. In a case where a woman has sex with different partners, the twins could have different fathers and the appropriate term is heteropaternal superfecundation.

4. “Half Identical” Twins or Polar Body Twins is a theory at this time.  There are two types of twins, right? Dizygotic (fraternal) twins result when two eggs are fertilized. Monozygotic (identical) twins come from a single fertilized egg that splits. But what if the egg splits and then each half meets a sperm? That’s the proposed theory for polar body or “half-identical” twins, twins who are very much alike but aren’t a 100% DNA match. Although it seems to be a reasonable theory, there is no definitive test to confirm polar body twinning.

5. Boy/Girl Identical (Monozygotic) Twins occurs when there is a genetic mutation in male twins where one twin loses an Y chromosome and develops as a female. The female twin would be afflicted with Turner’s Syndrome, characterized by short stature and lack of ovarian development. Of course, another explanation for gender differences in identical twins is an identical twin who undergoes a sex change operation.

6. Mirror Image Twins are monozygotic, twins that form from a single fertilized egg. When the split occurs late – more than a week after conception – the twins can develop reverse asymmetric features. This term is not really a type of twin, just an way to describe their physical features. For example, they may be right- and left-handed, have birthmarks on opposite sides of their body, or have hair whorls that swirl in opposite directions. In theory, if the twins faced each other, they would appear to be exact reflections of each other. About 25% of identical twins are mirror image twins.

7. Parasitic Twins is a type of conjoined twins that develops asymmetrically, with a smaller, less formed twin dependent on the stronger, larger twin. A variation of parasitic twinning is fetus in fetu, where an abnormally formed mass of cells grows inside the body of its monozygotic twin. It survives during pregnancy, and even occasionally after birth, by tapping directly into the blood supply of the host twin.

8. Semi-Identical Twins is a type of twinning identified as identical on the mother’s side but sharing only half their father’s genes, the rare twins developed when two sperm fertilized a single egg, which then split.

9. Twins with Different Birthdays the most  common explanation is a labor and delivery that begins before midnight and ends on the following day. If that day happens at the end of the month, or even the end of a year, the two babies can have birthdays in different months and even different years. Sometimes a pregnancy is prolonged to provide each baby with an optimal chance for survival. If preterm labor forces the delivery of one baby, doctors can successfully control the labor and delay delivery to give the other baby more time in the womb. Twins and higher multiples have been born days and even weeks apart.

10. Twins of Different Races can be caused by heteropaternal superfecundation. There are cases of fraternal (dizygotic) twins with differing racial characteristics. In one case, the differentiation was due to a lab mix-up during an in-vitro procedure. However, there is a case where two bi-racial parents conceived fraternal (dizygotic) twin girl twins, experts explain that the girls inherited different genetic characteristics from their mixed race parents. One is fair-haired and light skinned, while the other has dark hair, eyes and skin.

A law that took effect the end of July 2009 requiring that DNA samples be taken from people arrested for capital murder, first-degree murder, kidnapping and first- and second-degree sexual assault instead of waiting to take the samples after a conviction has not increased the number of samples for testing.

It was estimated that about 1,400 samples would be collected each year, but only 73 have been submitted since the law went into effect. At this time none have been matched to a crime.  It is assumed that one reason for the lower than predicted submissions is that law enforcement officers still need to be educated on the specifics of the law according to Arkansas Crime Laboratory Director Kermit Channell.  Because of this the state crime lab has sponsored several training sessions on the law and is required to provide DNA kits to law enforcement agencies as well as pay  for the cost of shipping the samples to the lab.

North Little Rock Police Chief Danny Bradley aggress with Channell that education is very important.  Bradley stated law enforcement officers often struggles to keep up with the state’s frequently amended criminal codes and that low compliance is to be expected during a law’s first year.  Bradley suggested that education by the lab focus on county jail facilities or other agencies that serve as primary booking sites.

Anyone whose DNA is collected under the new law can formally request that the sample be destroyed and that the DNA information be removed from the state DNA data bank if the person is acquitted, the charge is dismissed, prosecutors drop pursuit of the charges or if a charge is not filed within a year of the arrest.

By Lindsay Wagner

The choice to immigrate is a hard one to make. Now, imagine just how hard the transition will be for your child. Yes, some children are able to adapt to new situations easily, but there are a few prevalent issues that will cause great emotional discomfort. As a parent, you interest lies in ensuring that your child is happy. Your child’s emotional state counts. It is important to help your child to settle into their new environment.

What can you do to ensure that the transition is made bearable for your child?

Establish security

Inform your child about every step of the immigration process. Ensure that your child is involved in every aspect, as much as possible. Don’t keep your child in the dark. This is essential. Suggest that your child packs some of their own toys into boxes and place them into a removal truck, then have them unpack their toys themselves in their new home. This will help establish stability and continuity.

Look on the bright side

View this event as an opportunity to teach your child that saying goodbye isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Help them look forward to their new life. Also, help your child to cherish the memories he/she have made in their home country. Create a scrap book of memories with your child before you leave your country of residency. Once you’ve moved to your new home, create a similar scrapbook with your child. This time focus on your new home including the new opportunities available to your child. This will help build excitement about the move.

Focus on School holidays

If possible try to move when the school holidays are taking place in your new home country. This will give your child some time to adjust. Summer is the most popular time to relocate. This is a time when your child can focus on a new environment.  Family and a good support system will become crucial at this point.

Play Catch Up

Spend time with your child emailing and post letters to close friends and family. Join a social network, such as facebook and create a family group to help you child keep up-to-date with family events. This will help your child to remain close and ‘intact’ with the family.

Let your child be the designer

A sure way to allow your child to become comfortable in his/her surroundings is to allow your child to help decorate. Ask your child to suggest a colour, features and furniture for his/her bedroom. Remember, your child’s bedroom will become a haven. It needs to make your child happy. Create a soothing atmosphere with your child’s input.

Discover your new home

Make the transition an adventurous experience. Spend a day travelling around, discovering new interesting places. Perhaps, visit the local museum or library. Children are always keen for a new adventure. This will help create an exciting buzz to the transition.

Party, Party, Party!

Make the transition an enjoyable experience. Invite new friends and neighbours and their children over to your new home. Invite them for tea or games. This is a great way to help you and your child settle in. It’s also a great way to help you child if they are missing friends and family.

Relocating can be an awesome experience. However, it is vital that your entire family share in the excitement. By taking this into consideration and doing your utmost to ensure that your child is prepared, your child can start a life in a happy frame of mind.

Corneliue Dupree Jr. was exonerated January 4th 2011 after serving 30 years in jail for a robbery and rape that he did not commit.  ”It’s a joy to be free again,” Dupree said after the judge’s ruling.  Dupree has been out on parole since July but today’s decision clears his record.

Dupree now 51 has DNA evidence to thank for being able to clear his name.  According to the Associated Press:

“Nationally, only two others who have been exonerated by DNA evidence spent more time in prison, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center representing Dupree that specializes in wrongful conviction cases. James Bain was wrongly imprisoned for 35 years in Florida, and Lawrence McKinney spent more than 31 years in a Tennessee prison.”

Under Texas compensation laws for the wrongly imprisoned, Dupree is eligible for $80,000 for each year he was behind bars, plus a lifetime annuity. He could receive $2.4 million in a lump sum that is not subject to federal income tax.
The compensation law, the nation’s most generous, was passed in 2009 by the Texas Legislature after dozens of wrongly convicted men were released from prison. Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted inmates through DNA since 2001 — more than any other state.

Under Texas compensation laws for the wrongly imprisoned, Dupree is eligible for $80,000 for each year he was behind bars, plus a lifetime annuity, none of which would be subject to federal income taxes.

Texas’ compensation law is the nation’s most generous.  The law was passed in 2009 by the Texas Legislature after dozens of wrongly convicted men were released from prison. Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted inmates with DNA testing since 2001.  This is more than any other state.