In genetic research, staying at the forefront of technology is crucial. The latest breakthrough in human identification comes in the form of 8-dye Short Tandem Repeat (STR) chemistry. This innovation promises unprecedented precision and accuracy in DNA analysis, revolutionizing the way we approach genetic studies. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of 8-color chemistry and explore how it seamlessly integrates with the game-changing Spectrum Compact CE System.
Understanding 8-Dye STR Chemistry
The introduction of 8-dye chemistry expands the capability of STR analysis, enabling researchers to analyze more DNA markers with smaller amplicons, providing more robust data from degraded or inhibited DNA samples. The performance of the 8-color dye chemistries from Promega on the Spectrum Compact CE System is sensitive, with both chemsitries (PowerPlex® 35 GY System and the upcoming PowerPlex® 18 E System) producing 100% profiles from their suggested inputs down to as little as 62.5 pg of DNA. The 18E system produced 100% profiles down to 31.25 pg of input DNA with minimal signal bleed through and low system noise.
However, the mobile lab was more recently employed in a new DVI context: identifying victims of the conflict in Ukraine. On the last day of ISHI 33, Dr. Hubac presented on the unique challenges posed when identifying victims of war, and the tools, protocols and system that made the mobile lab uniquely suited for this purpose.
Engineered T-cell therapies, specifically CAR-T cell therapies, have emerged as a breakthrough treatment for certain types of blood cancers including lymphomas, some forms of leukemia, and most recently, multiple myeloma. CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy involves collecting T cells from a patient and re-engineering them to detect and destroy cancer cells.
The elk tooth is small and ancient, with a crude hole bored through the top. It was likely worn as a pendant, but worn by whom? Was the owner male or female? Where did they come from? Did the pendant indicate their social status, mark a significant accomplishment, was it a gift, or was it worn as an expression of individuality?
Artifacts such as personal ornaments and tools play a pivotal role in helping us understand the migration, behavior and cultures of ancient peoples. To date, this information has stopped short of providing insight into things like the biological sex or genetic ancestry of the individuals who may have worn or used these items, and thus limited our ability to accurately characterize societal roles and behaviors. Recent advances in DNA techniques and technologies, and one little pendant, might be changing that.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to celebrate the 33rd International Symposium of Human Identification than a night spent wandering through the Hall of Human Evolution at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The meeting, which took place in Washington D.C. from October 31–November 4, focused largely on using investigative genetic genealogy (IGG). When used to identify human remains or solve cold cases, IGG (a.k.a. forensic genetic genealogy or forensic investigative genetic genealogy, take your pick) relies heavily on techniques developed to sequence DNA from ancient human remains.
New to ISHI this year were live-streamed presentations, building off the success of last year’s session recordings for online streaming. Another first was attendees dressing up in costume for the welcome reception, which happened to coincide with Halloween. From a nucleic acid-themed group costume to Sims characters to a bunch of grapes, ISHI 33 attendees had a chance to show off their fun side while reconnecting with colleagues.
While a range of topics were covered during the workshops, sessions and poster presentations, three themes stood out to this first-time ISHI attendee. In addition to IGG, there was widespread interest in developments in DNA databases as well as efforts to mobilize DNA analysis labs.
On October 19, 2020, in a corner of what was once the African American section of the Potter’s Field in Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, a backhoe begins scraping away layer after layer of red Oklahoma earth. Workers in high-visibility vests and orange hard hats prepare to join the excavation. DeNeen Brown, a reporter with the Washington Post, looks on, bearing witness to a site that could be one of the final, unmarked resting places for victims of a massacre that happened 100 years in the past.
On October 3, 2022, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet announced the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine had been awarded to Svante Pääbo, director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. The Assembly cited his “discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution”. They mentioned the highlight of his research: the seemingly impossible task, at the time, of sequencing the Neanderthal genome. The discoveries that followed from this sequencing project continue to redefine our understanding of modern human origins.
The award showcases the technological advancements made in the analysis of ancient DNA. However, Pääbo’s research had an inauspicious beginning. In 1985, he published the results of his early work, cloning and sequencing DNA fragments from a 2,400-year-old Egyptian mummy (1). Unfortunately, later analysis revealed that the samples could have been contaminated by the researchers’ own DNA (2).
Recently, Promega announced the launch of the Spectrum CE System, a new capillary electrophoresis instrument that supports future 8-color technology while maintaining compatibility with existing 5- and 6-color kits—even ones that Promega does not sell. In a market with limited instrumentation options for CE analysis, the Spectrum CE system offers features designed to streamline the workflow for analyzing casework and database samples.
In the United States, April is a time to promote awareness about sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. Sexual violence is a worldwide, pervasive problem that affects every one of us. By raising awareness, we can learn how to cultivate safe workplaces, homes, online platforms and other spaces, to prevent sexual violence and provide support for survivors.
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), here are some of the key facts and figures about sexual violence gathered from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Take a few minutes to read and learn more about this issue as SAAM draws to a close.
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