On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided that companies cannot patent naturally occurring human genes. This is an interesting distinction as it breaks away from other cases regarding DNA patenting and collecting within the US. Earlier this month, SCOTUS ruled that police agencies could collect and indefinitely store human DNA, even if charges are dropped. This ruling identifies DNA similar to fingerprints in the eyes of the law in forensics information gathering. Also, previously to this ruling, SCOTUS has ruled that companies can patent synthesized genes.

This case has garnered national attention due to some interesting events in popular media. In May actress Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy. According to the news , after learning that she was extremely likely to develop breast cancer because she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene. The case before SCOTUS was directly tied into this very BRCA1 gene. Myriad Genetics of Utah, was the only company that had developed a test to identify this gene and had patented the gene to maintain a monopoly over the testing. With this ruling other companies will now be able to develop testing, which should bring down the price of the test and make it available to more people. In time it is speculated that the BRCA1 test will become commonplace and lives will be saved as a direct result of this ruling.

DNA Services of America is pleased with this ruling. While we currently do not offer BRCA1 testing, we know that with this gene now open to further research more and more testing opportunities will become available.

DNA testing and analysis for medical diagnostic and disease predisposition is still a very young field. This ruling by SCOTUS will encourage growth within the field. By safeguarding against patenting naturally occurring genes, companies will be able to develop new studies and tests to identify other diseases and cancers. Hopefully, through this ruling and others like it, medical professionals will be able to provide better care for their patients by having better information with which to make important medical decisions.

If you believe that you are a potential carrier of the BRCA1 gene, or have a family history of breast cancer, we encourage you to contact you family physician and discuss you situation and options.

Monday, June 3rd, with a slim margin of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed that police can sample DNA from an arrested individual and keep the specimen afterward, regardless of innocence or guilt.  This is one of two cases before the Supreme Court this year as they also tackle the controversial case of whether or not corporations can patent DNA.  Both of these subjects are important and reflect deeply on the nature of privacy and the very building blocks of life that compose a human.

DNA Services of America is a company that tests and profiles DNA sequences for individuals to answer questions for genealogy purposes, paternity disputes, forensic testing, and even immigration services.  As such, this is a very important topic.  So the question is to be asked, do you own the rights to your own DNA and should that be private?

To begin with, it is important to note that the Supreme Court’s ruling only applies to person apprehended.  The police can’t lift DNA without probably cause, currently.  In this regard, the Supreme Court has decided that DNA is similar to a fingerprint and is nothing more than an identifying mark of a person.  Applications of collecting DNA are important for cases of sexual abuse, as well as when blood is present at a crime scene, etc.  The application of this law should help keep people who are innocent from being prosecuted.  The disturbing aspect of the case is the nature that the police can keep a copy of your DNA on file once it is collected.  This is again similar to fingerprints, which are taken during an arrest and then kept on file.  Personally, while it may seem that is a overstep of power for both law enforcement agencies and the Supreme Court, the decision was based off of current practices already in place throughout the United States.

However, the next case to be heard is truly interesting.  Can a company patent genes?  Can a company patent DNA?  While the thought itself seems absurd, there are important questions to be asked that are at the heart of this case, and it goes beyond privacy.  Ultimately the case will be built around the idea that companies are experimenting with DNA and therefore any findings they have that can benefit can be patented and protected.  This begins to sound like something out of a science fiction story, or the movie GATTACA.  However as we move forward in DNA studies these questions will have to be asked and defined.  It is interesting to note that this time is already here.

The date was August 25, 1485.  King Richard III of England was being laid to rest in the choir of the Leicester Greyfriars Church after being defeated at the Battle of Bosworth two days earlier.  This defeat ended the 331 years of Plantagenet rule and ushered in the reign of the Tudors under King Henry VII.  The change in power also ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the Renaissance Period in England.
527 years to the day, on August 25, 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester, England, King Richard III’s remains have been located and exhumed from the remains of the Greyfriars Church.  DNA testing performed by the renowned Dr. Turi King at the University of Leicester and compared against known descendants of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York, has since confirmed that the exhumed remains are in fact that of King Richard III.

But is it really King Richard III?  Since the news has come out, many scientists are unsure at least until the results of the studies are publicized and can be peer reviewed.  Questions as to the type of DNA testing performed are the main point of contention to those doubting the results. It seems that due to the age of the remains and the surviving relatives that mitochondrial DNA testing was all that could be performed and as a result, could result in a false positive due to the fact that individuals could potentially share mitochondrial DNA and not be related.  What makes a mitochondrial relative is the sharing of rare variations in the DNA.  As this data has not yet been published, it is difficult for some to accept the data.
While DNA testing provides firm evidence as to whose remains were found, one only has to look at the corroborating evidence surrounding this case.  It is well known that Richard III had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.  This caused one of his shoulders to be much higher than the other, which may be where the hunchback stories came from.  William Shakespeare wrote about this deformity in his works.  It is also well documented of the wounds that Richard III sustained during the battle as well as the post mortem “humiliation” wounds.   The wounds on the remains match up to what has been documented.  It is also well known that Richard III was buried in the choir of the Greyfriars church.  While the church was destroyed as a result of a dissolution decree of all monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1538, it was found as a result of research done by members of The Richard III Society and the University of Leicester, who tracked down medieval maps to locate the best approximation of the remains of the church.
Additionally, facial reconstruction was performed using the skull and astonishingly, the result closely matches known painted images of King Richard III.  While no paintings done while he was alive are known to exist, it is assumed that existing paintings are based off of paintings that have long since been destroyed.

Anytime you deal with 500+ year old remains, there will always be questions.   When you have strong corroborating evidence in addition to DNA evidence, it leads one to believe that King Richard III has indeed been found beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England.  His body will soon be interred at Leicester Cathedral sometime in 2014.

What if there was a test that could tell you if your child had the potential to be a world class athlete?  A biosciences company out of Colorado is now selling a DNA Test that can detect the ACTN-three gene.  This is the gene which is behind the “fast-twitch” muscles that world class athletes are said to have.  It is claimed that the absence of the gene means that the child might be better suited for endurance sports, while children with the gene might be better suited for contact sports. Kids that have a little bit of the gene, can play just about any sport.

How many times have we seen parents yelling at their kids at their sporting events because they struck out in their baseball game, missed a tackle in a football game or got beat in a swim meet?  If parents think their kids should be good at certain sports because of this test, what is going to happen to the morale of some of these kids?  It’s not just the absence or inclusion of a gene that determines if someone is going to be good at something.  Being good at something takes years of practice, focus and brains…..yes, brains.  Why is it that the professional sports leagues make you take an aptitude test.  You could be the strongest and fastest athlete around, but if you can’t think your way through a simple problem, nobody’s gonna give you a shot.

While this DNA Test may be able to let parents know if their kid has potential, there is no DNA Test for brains.

Here’s to ensuring that the decendents of kids who get picked last in PE class at school will get picked last till the end of time.

Since the beginning of celebritydom, unethical people have used every means possible to ride the money train of the rich and famous. Back in 1943, Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin was embroiled in a Paternity Suit from an ex-girlfriend.  Even though the blood type testing came back to show that Chaplin could not have possibly been the biological father (DNA Testing was not available at the time), the courts ruled against Chaplin and he was forced to pay child support until the child was 18 years old.  Even today with DNA testing, which is the “Gold-Standard” of determining paternity because it gives you a 0% probability of paternity or a 99.99%+ probability and is required now in nearly 100% of paternity cases, the lure of large sums of potential “hush money” is enough to get some people’s creative juices flowing.  It should go without saying that in all of these false and dishonest paternity suits, the winners are ultimately losers and the losers…well, they’re just losers.

For the celebrity, while the truth does eventually come out, the amount of money spent on litigating these cases can be tremendous.  Family relationships can be negatively impacted and judgement by the court of public opinion can result in bad publicity and fan disappointment if the celebrity or their staff handled themselves inappropriately.  This seems to have been the case for Charlie Chaplin, as he had been scrutinized in his years for his political views and his personal life. For the child in question, if they are old enough to realize what is going on, they’ll probably need counseling when it’s all over if they aren’t already there.  Ultimately, nobody wins.

Baby-Mama’s all over the country need to pay attention to this.  If you don’t know who your baby’s daddy is and you are thinking about striking it rich by accusing a celebrity of being the daddy–think twice, maybe thrice.  Rich people generally have more money than you and have people on staff to mitigate and litigate their issues.  Accomplices and free legal services will only get you so far. With recent news that Mariah Yeater has recently dismissed her very public Paternity Lawsuit against teen idol Justin Bieber and possibly hired a new attorney to seek a private settlement, let’s take a look at this and some other failed Celebrity baby-daddy accusations.

Justin Bieber

Mariah Yeater, a 20 year old unemployed mother of a 3 month old, accused Bieber of fathering her child in the bathroom after one of his concerts when he was 16 and she was 19. Yeater is seeking financial compensation.  Not long after Bieber agreed to take a PaternityTest, Yeater quietly dropped her lawsuit claiming that she was receiving death threats and was afraid for her and her child.  After her legal counsel bailed on her, Yeater proceeded to hire a new attorney who is attempting to negotiate a settlement with Bieber in a more private manner. It was further discovered and reported by TMZ that Yeater may have requested that another potential father candidate, delete all text messages where he claims or has been told that he was the proper father, in return  for a ”kick” when Yeater gets paid.   This case is far from over.  Interestingly, not many people are talking about the potential statutory rape charges faced by Yeater as she was 19 and Bieber was only 16 at the time of their tryst.  The age of consent in California where this supposedly occurred is 18.  DOH!

Chris Rock

Back in 2007, Kali Bowyer claimed that Chris Rock had fathered a child with her 13 years earlier.  Despite DNA testing proving that Rock was not the father, Bowyer continued to insist that Rock was in fact the father and even sold her story to multiple tabloid news outlets.  It was later discovered that Bowyer had an extensive criminal record of lying to police, bad check writing and running a scam or two.  The courts finally ruled in Rock’s favor.  After spending a tremendous sum of money to defend the case, Rock made a public appeal to Bowyer to donate any monies made on the sale of her story to charities benefitting disadvantaged boys and girls.

Keanu Reeves

Mr. Anderson, as he is known to fans of The Matrix, wasn’t “The One.”  In 2009, Karen Sala accused Reeves of being the father of her four adult children.  How could this possibly happen?  Well, according to Sala, Reeves hypnotized her and disguised himself as her ex-husband and impregnated her.  Sala sued Reeves for $3 million a month for spousal support and $150,000 a month for back child support.  Needless to say, after the DNA tests came back negative, the case was thrown out.

Bill Cosby

Dr. Huxstable, America’s favorite Dad back in the 90’s, should have made this a focus of one of his award-winning shows.  Cosby admitted to paying his mistress $100,000 back in the 1970’s after she delivered a baby girl named Autumn Jackson.  Twenty –three years later, Autumn Jackson threatened to sell her story to the supermarket tabloids if Cosby didn’t pay her $40 million.  Cosby called Jackson’s bluff and submitted to DNA testing, which Jackson refused to participate in.  Jackson was ultimately sentenced to 26 months in a Federal prison for extortion.

These are just a few of the more recent high profile cases.  No one who has made it in life is immune to this.  False accusations of paternity are not just something that the rich and famous have to deal with.  Thousands of cases a year pop up in local cities throughout country accusing spouses of infidelity, often leading up to a paternity suit. Years from now, new high profile paternity cases will arise and people will have long but forgotten about Justin Bieber, Chris Rock, Keanu Reeves and Bill Cosby.  Unfortunately for the unethical accusers, DNA and other identification technology is only getting better and easier to use. DNA Testing companies seem to have many years of job security ahead of them.

Message From the President

DNA Services of America had been in the DNA Testing business for over 7 years.  During that time, we have performed thousands of confidential DNA tests on individuals looking for the answer to the life changing question of “Am I the Father?”  Our dedicated case coordinator’s are extremely knowledgeable and can help you with any family relationship testing question that you may have.  Our partner laboratories are certified to ensure that proper protocols are used to ensure that the test is done properly and is correct.  DNA Services of America has also worked with many high profile clients and in addition to our standard confidentiality procedures, has additional safeguards in place to further protect the identity of the tested party.

If Justin Bieber is still interested in taking a Paternity Test to prove that he is not the father of Mariah Yeater’s child, we would like to offer Justin Bieber the opportunity to have the test done by our comapny, DNA Services of America, at no cost; in an effort to get this behind him.

Chimpanzees have for years been the ideal subject for experimental research due to their closeness to the human species.  Microbiologists have also had a question as to why humans and chimpanzees differ in appearance, even though we share almost 99 percent of our DNA?

Scientists at Georgia Tech University have recently discovered that the answer to this question lies in our junk DNA.  This junk DNA, or non-coding DNA as it is also referred to, has traditionally been cast aside by researchers as it had no known biological connections.  Non-coding DNA doesn’t directly affect our genes as they do not code protein sequences in our genes.

While humans and chimpanzees genes are nearly identical, there are some gaps which are created by the junk DNA inserting itself or deleting itself throughout .  This movement of this junk DNA acts as a switch to turn on and off certain characteristics throughout the genome which in turn makes humans look like humans and chimpanzees look like chimpanzees.  Approximately 42 percent of human DNA is made up of this junk DNA while in other mammals it is between 45 to 48 percent.

Studies have shown that the differences in these gaps created by the behavior of the junk DNA inserting itself and deleting itself throughout the genome is correlated with the way that the genes express themselves (i.e. looks, speech, behavior, etc).  While the majority of these differences are believed to be biologically insignificant, the few thousand differences that are significant are helping to shed light on our evolution as a human species.

Here’s one for Hollywood.  Scientists in a special secure facility recreate a bacteria so deadly that it wiped out 25 million people throughout Europe in the 1300’s so they can better understand why the bacteria was so deadly.  How does it work out? Let your imagination go from there.

It is true.  Scientists have recently reconstructed the DNA of the bacterium, Yersinia pestis; the same bacteria believed to be the cause of the bubonic plague or the “Black Death” outbreak that wiped out nearly half of the European population in the mid 1300’s.  Scientists used teeth from four such victims buried near the Tower of London in a cemetary that had been created specifically for the arrival of the plague.  By utilizing a known technique wherby complementary DNA strands bind together, scientists were able to use a modern version of Yersinia pestis bacteria to separate the medieval version from the teeth.

Yes, the bacteria that caused the plague still exists today and the last known outbreak happened in Madagascar in the 1990’s although the sickness presents different symptoms today.   The modern version of the bacteria is susceptible to antibiotics just as the medieval version.  Unfortunately for most of Europe and the rest of the world in the 1300’s, antibiotics were not discovered yet.  Both versions of the bacteria have only 1 chromosome and is about 4.6 million DNA units long.  Scientists further discovered that in the 660+ years since the horror, the modern version has only 97 mutations from the medieval strain.  These changes will further be studied one by one to determine how each change affects the micobe’s virulence.

So, if the bacteria exists today, what makes the bacteria less virulent?  Scientists are still debating this issue but it is known that the modern version of the plague bacterium often rearranges the order of its genes, which could affect pathogenicity.  Other thoughts are as simple as that we don’t live in the medieval world today.  During the 1300’s in Europe, the climate was cooling, crops were rotting due to rains and famines, sanitation was poor, people were malnourished and the Hundred Years War had just begun when the disease first struck.

Scientist’s now hope to one day be able to modify a modern Yersinis pestis bacterium so that it’s genome exactly matches that of the medieval version.  What could possibly go wrong?

Genetic Longevity studies at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam have recently shed some light into the secrets of living a long life.  After sequencing the genome of  Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, also known as W115 as she lived to 115 years of age, geneticists noticed rare genetic mutations which may have protected her from late-life diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, etc. When studying her brain, scientists noted that her brain the the first of such an advanced age to not have any signs of disease. Van Andel-Schipper attributed her longevity to eating herring and drinking orange juice every day.  When van Andel-Schipper was 82 years old she made the descision to leaver her body to science so that people could discover why she became this old. It is also understood that van Andel-Schipper’s mother lived to 99 years and 10 months.

Van Andel-Schipper was born on June 29, 1890 in Smilde, Drenthe in the Netherlands and had no children of her own, so it is unsure if the mutations in her genes began with her or were also passed to other relatives.  Several other relatives have come forward to either donate their bodies upon death or give blood samples to help scientists determine if the mutations are spread throughout the family.  If they are spread around, then it will give scientists additional insight into their genetic longevity studies.

While having genes to fend of diseases normally brought on by ageing, van Andel-Schipper died peacfully in her sleep on August 30, 2005 at the age of 115 years and 2 months from an undiagnosed malignant gastric cancer.  A couple of days prior to her death she was quoted as saying to the director of the nursing home where she lived that “It’s been nice, but the man upstairs says it’s time to go.”

While researching your ancestry, you come across a possible Native American in your family tree or perhaps there is a family story that one of your ancestors may have been Native American.  Your interest peaks as you realize that you could possibly be Native American and maybe have access to special programs including free housing, free education, sharing in casino revenues, etc.

Whoa!  what many people don’t realize is that it’s just not that simple.  The burden of proof is on you to prove that you are of Native American descent.  Each tribe has their own requirements such as going through blood testing and more recently DNA testing to prove Native American heritage.  Due to the increased numbers of people trying to claim Native American heritage in the hopes that they can claim their share of the tribe’s casino revenues (only 25% of tribal casino’s profit share with their members), many tribes are requiring, that in order to be considered a member of their tribe, that a grandparent or possibly a great-grandparent must have been a menber and you must prove that you are descended from that individual through DNA testing.  In many cases, this means that one of your parents must be a member because if your grandparents or great-grandparents are deceased, the only way to prove Native American heritage is to conduct a DNA test with your parents.  Of course, if your grandparents are still alive, testing can be performed with them as well.

Make sure that you speak to someone with the tribe who can properly inform you as to all of the requirements for membership.  In almost every tribe, the DNA test must be either ordered through the tribe or the results of the test must be mailed from the lab, directly to the tribe.  Most tribes also will only accept results from an AABB accredited laboratory, so make sure that you use a lab or DNA services provider who uses AABB certified laboratories.

So what types of tests are available to prove Native American heritage?  There are many tests available, but only the tests specifically required by the tribe you are seeking membership in will be allowed to prove your Native American heritage.  There are tests out in the market that claim that they can tell you what tribe you may have descended from.  These tests are based on databases of samples taken within the respective tribes.  Unfortunately, the sample sizes for each tribe are just not large enough in most cases to get a very strong and conclusive result.  For those individuals who just want to know if they have Native American heritage and what tribe they may have descended from and are not interested in becoming a member of a specific tribe, these tests can definitely help.

Again, the keys here are to speak to the tribe and find out all of the requirements prior to beginning any testing process.  You must make sure that you follow the tribes requirements exactly, otherwise you could waste a lot of time and money.

To alleged fathers the most important question is determining whether or not to get a chain of custody test or a non-chain of custody test.  Making an incorrect decision, could cost a lot of money in the long run.

First of all let me discuss chain of custody testing.  Chain of custody testing is also known as legally admissible DNA testing.  It is called chain of custody because during the sample collection process and testing process, the DNA samples follow a strict and documented chain of custody.  The sample collector, verifies all tested parties’ identification, takes photo’s and has each tested party attest to their identity.  The samples are then shipped to the lab via UPS or FedEx with a documented tracking number which when it gets to the lab is noted and the samples are then processed.  Every person who handles the sample at the lab records the fact that they handled the sample to ensure that the chain of custody is not broken.  These results can then be used in any court in the country to prove or disprove paternity when it involves, child support, birth records, adoptions, etc.  These tests generally are priced in the neighborhood of $350-$550 depending on the laboratory.  Due to the level of documentation and photos taken of tested parties, you can be assured that the correct individuals are being tested.

With non-chain of custody testing, typically refererred to as a Home Kit, the cost of the test is less expensive but the risks are higher.  The most important thing to realize with a non-chain test is that the test is only as accurate as the parties that were tested.  In a non-chain DNA test, the tested parties are not verified and documented and no photos are taken. If you believe that the mother may possibly pull a switch and swab a different child, or if you believe that the alleged father will swab one of his friends, this may not be the test for you unless you personally watch the samples being collected to ensure that the right parties are being collected.  Non-chain tests cannot be used in court for this very reason.  Without documentation, the court cannot be assured that the correct individuals were tested.  Therefore non-chain testing is only good for “peace of mind” testing when there is no chance that any legal proceedings will come up as a result of the test.  Non-chain testing  prices typically run in the neighborhood of $69-$250.  This is a “buyer beware” type of test, because unlike chain of custody testing, non-chain tests can be performed by non-accredited laboratories who may have questionable standards.  The labs offering the lower priced tests are usually these non-accredited labs who use price to gain business from unknowledgeable customers.

When shopping for a DNA test, it is always best to shop around.  There are many DNA Labs and resellers out there that are well respected and offer a quality test.