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10 Cool Things You Didn’t Know About DNA!

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We already took a look at DNA basics. Let’s go deeper into DNA fun facts and emerging trends in DNA science.

1. Chemical Tracing: a new forensic technique that goes beyond DNA and fingerprinting to identify persons based on the traces of molecules and microbes you leave behind. Chemical signatures can be found everywhere, including the surface of your cell phone! 

2. Rapid DNA Testing is a new technique that allows investigators to test DNA on site and within minutes of collecting a sample. Great for use in terrorism, mass disasters, homeland security, and trafficking. The machine, which can be taken on location, is called ANDE.

3. Lab Backlog.  There are 200 forensic labs in the U.S. and a backlog of 400,000 sexual assault kits awaiting DNA testing. It can take 6-24 months to get results and they are expensive and error-prone. We need more labs, more technicians, and better technology!

4. The DNA-Rape Myth. DNA tests help solve only .2% of rape cases. Sadly, one in five women (yes, 20%) are raped in the U.S.  A rapist averages 12 assaults until convicted.  – Dr. Richard Selden, lecture at the WGA, 2018. It’s very, very difficult, but let’s encourage all women to speak up and get tested after an assault.

5. DNA Detective. The new term for genealogy sleuths who use take-home DNA test kits to help police solve crimes and crack cold cases. Learn more here

6. eDNA (aka Man-Made DNA) adds two new letters to the DNA genetic alphabet: X and Y to the already natural bases: A, T, G, C. With these two new letters, scientists can make 172 amino acids that can be applied to encode books, poems, music. They can also help create better medicines, vaccines, and new antibiotics. Check out Synthorx.

7. Sex Typing. Is there a DNA test to determine sex?  Sort of… A Raman Spectroscopy method may soon be able to determine sex through saliva DNA tests. A laser vibrates molecules and then the scattered light particles are measured to determine chemical signatures that differentiate males from females. Scientists are also developing a way to test the amino acids of your fingerprint to determine sex. Females have a higher concentration of amino acids in their chemistry.

8. A 20 Loci Match! Up until 2016, the National DNA Index System (NDIS) was only required to make DNA matches based on 13 loci (or genetic markers along the DNA strand). After January 1, 2017, they raised it to 20 loci. This provides a 1 in 100 million likelihood for a true match. It also increases the ability for compatibility with international law enforcement who are testing at higher loci rates, and aids in missing persons cases.

9. The New Floppy Disc. By converting the four DNA bases – A,C,G,T into ones and zeros, a software company in Hinxton, England, and scientists at Harvard have encoded the sonnets of Shakespeare, the “I Have A Dream” speech of Martin Luther King Jr., and other books into DNA strands. One gram of DNA can hold 455 billion gigabytes. Four grams can hold every piece of data the world produces in one year. Talk about condensed storage! More here.

10. Getting Wet DNA. The M-Vac is a machine used to pull DNA from porous surfaces (like wood, drywall, carpet, clothing). According to Forensic Magazine, it works like a mini-hurricane of sterile solution that sprays the surface of the object being tested, then sucks the wet traces into a container. The solution and any DNA material is run through a microcentrifuge filter, collected and analyzed. More here.

Check out The DNA Detectives and learn more about the best DNA test kits out there!

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