Aug 18, 2009 | 15
Unlike finicky fingerprints and frowned-upon fiber analysis, DNA evidence has been the most bulletproof evidence for forensic sciences in recent years. But staffers at a research firm in Israel have recently upended the presumed infallibility of this forensics golden child—by making it themselves.
Nucleix, a Tel-Aviv-based life sciences company, was able to create credible DNA evidence that could be used to finger the wrong person, proof that even genetic evidence can be manipulated (beyond planting a hair or used cigarette) just like other physical traces.
"You can just engineer a crime scene," Nucleix founder Dan Frumkin told The New York Times. "The current forensic procedure fails to distinguish between such samples of blood, saliva, and touched surfaces with artificial DNA, and corresponding samples with in vivo generated (natural) DNA," Frumkin and co-authors wrote in a recent Forensic Science International: Genetics study that announced the technological achievement.
Aug 17, 2009 | 3
Gadget makers have for decades relied on ever-shrinking microchips to make more portable, yet more powerful, devices. But as the components used to make these chips become smaller, with widths measured in dozens rather than hundreds of nanometers, they become increasingly more difficult to assemble.
May 12, 2009 | 3
For not much more than the cost of an old-fashioned chemistry set, amateur genetic engineers are assembling homemade labs to create new organisms, the Wall Street Journal reports today.
The hobbyists’ aims are as diverse as their day jobs: from a software engineer building a cheap test for toxic ingredients to a college student hoping to kill off harmful bacteria in the body, the story says.
"The barrier for entry is pretty low," Meredith Patterson told the New Scientist. With a $40 ultrasonic jewelry cleaner and some genes for a green-glowing protein, she was able to make yogurt bacteria light up.
She hopes to produce bacteria that glow in the presence of melamine, the toxic chemical that made its way into some infant formula. "No lab was working on this," she told the magazine, "so I said let's do it ourselves."
Mar 10, 2009 | 4
The Fountain Theatre in Hollywood California this month will begin running Photograph 51, a play about the human drama driving one of the most important discoveries of 20th century biology – the illumination of DNA's double helix structure. The play focuses on the role of British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin in the discovery. Many argue that her contribution, which went largely unnoticed, was so crucial that she deserved to, at the least, share the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for uncovering it that was instead snagged by geneticist James Watson and biophysicists Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.
Feb 19, 2009 | 3
Fingerprinting and analysis of hair fibers and marks made by weapons are familiar forensic tools to those of us who love crime shows, never mind to criminal defendants on trial and those who say they were wrongly convicted by evidence based on those techniques.
So you may be surprised to learn that none of those methods—which comprise the majority of what most real-life labs do—have been scientifically validated, and of the techniques commonly used in the nation's forensic labs, only DNA analysis has been rigorously proved to match a suspect to a crime.
Those are the conclusions of a new report released yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). "In terms of the reliability and accuracy in making individualization conclusions, it is fair to say that, with the exception of nuclear DNA analysis, there is a lot we do not know about other forensic disciplines," said the NAS panel's co-chair, Constantine Gatsonis, director of the Center for Statistical Sciences at Brown University, in a statement.
Feb 16, 2009 | 3
What does skin cancer have to do with Parkinson's disease, the degenerative brain condition that causes tremors, slowed gait and problems with balance and coordination? According to a new study, more than you might think.
People with a family history of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have twice the risk of developing Parkinson's disease as people who didn’t have a parent or sibling with the cancer, according to research released today ahead of April's annual American Academy of Neurology meeting in Seattle. The study followed nearly 132,000 men and women for 14 to 20 years; at the end of that period, 543 people had developed Parkinson's. The likelihood of getting Parkinson's was almost double — 90 percent greater, to be exact — in those with a close relative who had received a melanoma diagnosis than among those without that family history. (For comparison, the baseline risk of Parkinson’s is about 1 percent for those over 60, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.)
Feb 10, 2009 | 1
Do you squander all your dough at the casino? Maybe it's because your DNA is telling you to take risks with your money.
OK, it's not as simplistic as that. But Northwestern University researchers say they've linked two genes with our tendency to be bold or conservative investors, according to their study set to be published tomorrow in PLoS One. The genes regulate the brain's systems of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals important in areas of the brain that are active when we take or shun risk, respectively.
Jan 26, 2009 | 6
Always the last one picked for kickball? Never get invites to the hottest parties? Blame Mom and Dad.
That's right, a new study says genes may influence whether or not you're popular. But DNA, or genetic material, shapes more than popularity, according to the research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may also play a role in the number of friends we have—and whether we're integral or insignificant members of a social group.
Researchers from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, found that genes may be responsible for 46 percent of the variation (or difference) in how popular we are versus other people. Genetics exerts a similar effect on people's varying degrees of connectivity (for example, one person might know many of their friends' pals, but another person may not know any of their friends' other buddies.) And DNA has a significant, but lesser influence, on the difference between where one or another of us is located in a social network.
Jan 9, 2009 | 8
There's new evidence that the first inhabitants of North America might have arrived by both land and sea. Researchers analyzed the genetic material of modern indigenous people from North and South America to trace two rare lines back to the continents' first inhabitants. The study, published in Current Biology, provides the first genetic evidence that the ancestors of many living Native Americans took two distinct routes from Beringia (a region that included the now-submerged Bering land bridge as well as portions of Siberia and Alaska) some 15,000 to 17,000 years ago.
The new findings fly in the face of the prevailing genetic theory that just one wave of migration traveled down the ice-free Pacific coast from Beringia.
Dec 11, 2008 | 8
Patients with type 1 diabetes have been known to be more prone to another autoimmune disorder, celiac disease, in which gluten in wheat, rye and barley triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine or gut. Now there’s evidence that the two diseases have a genetic link: they share at least seven chromosome regions.
The discovery, published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that both diseases may be triggered by similar genetic and environmental mechanisms, such as certain foods, that cause patients' immune systems to become overactive and destroy healthy instead of infected tissue. Previous research has found that celiac disease is five to 10 times more common in people with type 1 diabetes than in the general population, an editorial accompanying the study notes.
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