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.

Everyone who has studied Biology in high school or college has learned about the Linnaean system of classification.  This system was developed back in the 1700’s by Carl Linnaeus to create a descriptive hierarchy of species, genus, family, order, class, phylum and kingdom.  The system then placed everything living into one of two domains, eukaryotes (which includes animals, plants and fungi) and bacteria.  In the 1970’s a third domain was dicovered.  Named archaea, the organisms that make up this domain, resemble bacteria.  However, unlike bacteria they give off methane as a waste product.

As technology has gotten better, scientists have been able to discover and view smaller and smaller micro-organisms, which leads us to the development of Metagenomics.  Metagenomics is the study of metagenomes, which is the genetic material recovered from environmental samples.  Traditionally, genome sequencing relies on the ability to clone cultures in a laboratory and then study them, however metagenomics enables studies of organisms that are not easily cultured in a laboratory.  It is estimated that up to 97% of living organisms cannot be cultured, so this new technique is very promising to the discovery of new micro-organisms.

Between 2003 and 2007, environmental samples were taken from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean by Dr. Craig Venter, who was studying the diversity of micro-organisms in those oceans.  Dr. Jonathan Eisen of the University of California, Davis began looking through the data to determine if there could possibly be new domains of life.  Dr. Eisen discovered two genes, RecA and RpoB.  When Dr. Eisen began the process of tracking the evolutionary relationships between all of the RecA and RpoB genes found in the samples taken by Dr. Venter, it was discovered that one branch did not fit on the existing tree of life.  Could it possibly be the fourth domain of living organism?  More research and testing needs to be performed to conclusively make that determination.

What does a fourth domain on the tree of life mean to the average person—not much.  But, when you look back to the discovery of the third domain back in the 1970’s was not seen as very important.  Now these methane producing organisms are now a factor in many scientist’s climate-change calculations.  What will this fourth domain, if it exists, mean to the world?

30 years ago, John Floyd was convicted of murdering William Hines in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In February 2010, Judge Benedict Willard denied Mr. Floyd a new trial despite significant new evidence, including DNA evidence, of his innocence. Much of this evidence has been withheld by the State of Louisiana for over 28 years.

The Facts:

  • Mr. Floyd was tried for the murders of William Hines and Rodney Robinson at a bench trial in 1982
  • The two victims were murdered within the same week in 1980, within a mile of each other in identical circumstances
  • Both victims were gay men who had sex with their killer immediately before being murdered
  • Both victims were stabbed in the neck and torso
  • Police found half-filled whiskey glasses at both crime scenes
  • The state’s case against Mr. Floyd relied on very similar confessions which Floyd made in 1981
  • The confessions were obtained by Detective John Dillmann, who had been previously chastised by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1980 for betting a suspect into confessing on a different case and was again chastised in Supreme Court in 1995 for improper law enforcement and prosecution practices

At the William Hines Crime scene, police found negroid pubic hairs in the victim’s bed. (Mr. Floyd and Mr. Hines are both white). Two half filled whiskey Glasses were also found.

At the Rodney Robinson Crime scene, police again found two whiskey glasses, semen on a napkin next to the victim’s bed and semen found in anal swabs of the victim, a hat containing negroid head hair (not Rodney Robinsons and Mr. Floyd is white) found in the corridor between the victim’s hotel room and the service elevator. A security guard witness claims to have seen a black man running from the service elevator and into the street immediately after Mr. Robinson was stabbed (not wearing a hat and looking behind him as he ran). Mr. Robinson also had Type O blood.

Blood typing from the Robinson crime scene excluded John Floyd as the man who had sex with the victim immediately before he was killed. This evidence led to the acquittal of Floyd in the murder of Rodney Robinson.

Unfortunately, due to the signed confession by Mr. Floyd to the murder of William Hines, the fact that the physical evidence at both nearly identical crime scenes pointed to someone else, Mr. Floyd was found guilt of murdering William Hines while being acquitted of murdering Rodney Robinson at the same trial.

It was discovered that during the investigation phase that investigators had mishandled the crime scene, failed to disclose exculpatory evidence and made probative testing unavailable to the defense by hiding testable evidence. Additionally, the hair analyst at the trial testified that the pubic hairs at the Hines crime scene and the head hairs at the Robinson crime scene could not be compared because you cannot compare head hairs to pubic hairs.

All evidence from the Hines crime scene was destroyed many years ago.

The innocence project of New Orleans has obtained never-before disclosed fingerprints from the whiskey glasses at the Robinson crime scene and from a whiskey bottle at the Hines crime scene that were compared by the police to John Floyd and the victims. The results from each crime scene were that the prints came from neither John Floyd, nor the victims. It was discovered that the results of these fingerprint comparisons were never even turned over to the Assistant District Attorney’s prosecuting the case and were never even turned over to Floyd’s lawyer. The fingerprint evidence was discovered over 27 years after the comparison was performed.

DNA testing on the evidence remaining from the Robinson crime scene shows that contrary to the analyst’s testimony at trial, there were pubic hairs found at both crime scenes that could have been compared. Mitochondrial DNA Testing performed on these hairs conclusively excludes Mr. Floyd as the donor of the pubic hairs and establishes that an unknown black man was in bed with the victims immediately before their murders.

The eyewitness testimony, along with the fingerprint evidence and the DNA testing evidence means that it is absolutely certain that Mr. Floyd did not commit the murder regardless of his confession. Recent psychological testing shows that Mr. Floyd has a 59 IQ and highly suggestible and compliant, making him susceptible to police pressure when they interrogate. The only evidence that the State had in the murder trial was Mr. Floyd’s confession. It has already been proven that Mr. Floyd gave a false confession to the Hines murder.

After hearing hours of testimony in February 2010, Judge Willard wished Mr. Floyd luck in the ongoing appellate process. The Innocence Project of New Orleans is now trying to get the ruling overturned by the State Supreme Court.

As DNA technology gets better and test prices cheaper, Over the counter DNA testing kits have sprung up in just about every major drugstore. For the last couple of years individuals have been able to go to their local drugstore and pick up for about $30 a DNA testing kit.  You swab the people you want to test and mail it back to the lab alaong with an additional $129 or so and wait for your results.  What’s baffling about this is that thousands of people per year buy this kit to answer what for many may be one of the biggest questions in their lives–Am I the father?  This practice is akin to someone shopping for the cheapest heart surgeon.

The fact is, is that there is no guarantee of results on these over the counter kits.  While a 0% result means that you are not the father, what does a 30%, 50%, 80% result actually mean?  Does any of those results give you the peace of mind that you are searching for or does it just open it up for more questions.  Most if not all respectable labs guarantee a result of 0% or 99%+, that way you can be reasonably assured that the answer you get back will truly give you the peace of mind that you are looking for.

When searching for a DNA test that you can trust to give you the peace of mind you are looking for ask these simple questions:

Is the company you are using or their lab accredited?  If not, their standards may not be very high and the results could be affected.

Are the results guaranteed to be either 0% or 99% or higher?  Anything in between will still leave you with questions.

Will you have a dedicated case manager throughout the process? Nobody likes to tell their story to multiple people.

Again, there are DNA tests out on the market for $69 on up.  Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for.”  Don’t sacrifice test quality just because someone offers a test for less.  Most test pricing is based on the service level  and the knowledge of the staff that is performing the test.   Would you trust the discount heart surgeon who offers a quadruple bypass for the price of a double bypass…..

In September of 2010 the State of Colorado enacted “Katie’s Law.”  This law requires persons arrested and suspected of a felony to submit to a DNA sample.  The law was passed in an attempt to assist in solving violent and sex-assault crimes that have been pending for some time.  The law also requires that if no felony charges are filed after 1 year, then the DNA samples are to be destroyed.

In the first 4 ½ months, 15,404 DNA swabs were collected from suspected felons.  Of these, 9,212 of the samples were processed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation once felony charges were filed. The samples are then entered into the state’s Combined DNA index system which stores results collected from crime scenes and victims throughout Colorado.  Of the initial samples run, 40 matches have been found and charges are now pending in these cases.

“Katie’s Law” is named after Katie Sepich, a New Mexico woman who had been raped, strangled and set on fire by a man released on bond.

There’s a lot of buzz being generated over the terms genetic genealogy and ancestry.  Several television shows and numerous websites claim to be able to tell you where your ancestors came from and how you came to live where you live today.  For many people who spend a lot of time tracing their family origins, these tests can provide valuable information and help to fill in some of the “gaps.”

The most basic of these genetic genealogy tests involve a simple cheek swab from which your genetic Haplogroup can be determined.  A haplogroup is a group of similar genetic types that share a common ancestor.  Historically, all of the great human migrations involved large groups of people who split into smaller groups and went their separate ways colonizing the world.  Everyone on the planet belongs to a haplogroup and these haplogroups have been mapped to show the migration routes over many thousands of years.

Other types of genetic genealogy tests claim to be able to tell tested individuals what percentage European, Indigenous American, Sub-Saharan African, and East Asian they are.  These tests are based on similar haplogroup typing as mentioned above and give a percentage makeup of your ancestry.

All genetic genealogy DNA tests are based on collections of data taken worldwide and as the databases grow the tests become stronger and will be able to further break down the different nationalities within the four main categories.  These tests are currently being developed.

Cornelius Dupree, in jail for 30 years for a crime he did not commit, was exonerated in a Dallas, TX courtroom on Tuesday, January 4, 2011.  Mr. Dupree was convicted in 1980 for the 1979 rape and robbery of a Dallas woman and was sentenced to up to 75 years in prison.  Mr. Dupree had wrongfully been picked out of a police lineup by that same woman, which ultimately led to his conviction.  Over the last 30 years, Mr. Dupree had at least two opportunities to be released from jail if only he would admit to being a sex offender.  Mr. Dupree maintained his innocence which unfortunately kept him in jail.  Fortunately for Mr. Dupree, the Dallas County Crime Lab had the foresight to store DNA evidence years before DNA identification technology would advance enough that the evidence collected would be able to be tested and used in court proceedings.  It took years of battling between the Dallas County court system and the Innocence Project, to get access to the samples for testing.  Once the testing was run, Mr. Dupree became the 21st Dallas County man to be exonerated using DNA evidence.  Forensic DNA testing technology has come a long way over the last few years and as a result in these advances in technolgy, the cost for testing in not very expensive when you weigh it against the freedom of a human life.  Now Mr. Dupree has his freedom.  May God bless him and his family.

This is one of the most asked questions when it comes to DNA Testing.  While that majority of the samples taken today are the “standard” buccal swabs (cheek swabs), DNA can be collected through a variety of other means such as Blood, fingernail clippings, diabetic test strips, ear swabs, hair (with roots attached), cigarette butts, chewing gum, toothbrush, soda cans, feminine hygiene products, condoms, bones, teeth,  etc.  However, using one of these “non-standard” samples usually requires a viability test whichcan result in an additional cost.  If you have a question about what kind of sample you can use to perform your DNA Test, please contact your personal case coordinator with the company you are working with or call one of our trusted Case Coordinators at DNA Services of America at (800) 927-1635.