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German police testing DNA of 900 men for unsolved murder cold case


German police asked about 900 men to have their DNA tested to help solve the cold case murder of then 11-year-old Claudia Ruf, who was killed 23 years ago. In May 1996, Claudia was kidnapped while walking a neighbors dog in the western city of Grevenbroich. 2 days later, her body was found 43 miles south of her home having been strangled, raped, covered in gas, and partially burned. 

This is just one of many waves of testing investigators are pursuing to find Claudia’s killer. The men selected in this wave were between 14 and 70 at her time of death. Because DNA traces of her murderer were found on Ruf, investigators and family members of Claudia hope that this mass testing will help find the culprit. According to one source, there has been renewed interest in the case and men were voluntarily lined up  by 10 a.m. the first day of testing to help find Claudia’s killer. 

The renewed interest comes years after a first test was used on local men. Since then, “new hints...could help them find the murderer” due to advancing technology. The new samples from late November will take 4 to 8 weeks to be analyzed. 

The method used by German Police and Investigators in this cold-case could be a helpful way for the average citizen to help in brutal cases such as this one. These volunteers sign over their DNA without knowing if it could potentially connect them to a relative. Personally, I like this tactic. It is a great publicity move to spark increased interest and keep victim's names a household occurrence for longer. Additionally, with new and improving technology and science, mass testings like these could be started weeks or months after killings instead of years later, potentially saving lives of potential victims.

For example, if the technology was available at the time of Joseph James DeAngelo's(Golden State Killer) prolific murders, rapes, and burglaries, perhaps DeAngelo could have been caught sooner. The truth is, we won't know until law enforcement either uses a tactic similar to this one or creates a better one in the ever-changing fields of genetics and forensics.

How much of our privacy is at stake after using DNA kits?

This article views DNA testing in a different light, the author takes a look at what these companies do with our information and where all of our human data goes. Although these kits promise ancestral connections and potentially life saving results to medical conditions, allowing a profit-driven company to analyze a persons genetic data produces a new type of privacy threat. The only legislation concerning the consumers genetic information is the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), which has been criticized for its narrow scope and gaps in what it does not protect. These DNA companies also "trick" users into opting in to allowing their DNA results to be shared with third parties. The authors next points are regarding the uncertainty of these companies. It is not possible to predict how these companies will behave with our information in the future and how strong their security infrastructure is or if it will be acquired by another big company with bad intentions. The last point, and in my opinion the most convincing, is when the author says "I think it would be naive of a consumer to believe that DNA testing companies don't have an incentive to leverage your data in ways that can't be foreseen". 


There are over 26 millions people that have taken a DNA test. A lot of these people were unaware of some of the possibilities that come along with sending in your DNA to these databases. Questions have been asked such as if a scam artist would be able to take your DNA from one of these places and steal your identity. Sending out your information to other relatives and being in the database alone exposes some of your information. As of now, there have been no stories regarding a security breach but with the increase in size of the database and more and more users taking DNA tests, it is definitely a concern for these companies. There is also a good side to your DNA being out in the world though, at least for most people. Forensic scientists have been able to solve some murder mysteries from the past decade using some of these databases, and this could also be the future of solving some crimes as well. It is certainly an easy way to do so. There is a warning with most sites that the DNA that you send in could possibly be used for more than just genealogy.

 Koalas have suffered throughout the years, from habitat destruction, dog attacks, car accidents. But that's only the explicit stuff, they have been plagued by chlamydia and many cancers, like leukemia and lymphoma. As scientists researched these problems, they found a natural laboratory in which they can study one of the most controversial topics in biology: how viruses can insert themselves into animal's DNA and at times change the course of evolution. The target of this research project is the Koala retrovirus (KoRV), a segment of protein and genetic material in the same family as H.I.V, it began inserting itself into the koala genome about 40,000 ago and is currently passed down generations. It can also be transmitted between species, as a viral infection. Recently scientists have found that the insertion of viruses into animal genomes many times through evolution. It is estimated that 8% of the human genome is made up of viral left overs from previous infections, this occurred millions of years ago, many of them occurring in primate ancestors before the existence of humans. KoRV is peculiar because 40,000 years ago was an important period in evolutionary time, and because the process keeps occurring. A group of scientists reported they observed a genome immune system fighting to render the virus inactive now that has established itself in the Koala DNA. They also reported that KoRV might have activated other ancient viral DNA. This activity stirs the pot of mutation and variation that is essential for natural selection. William Therkauf, a professor in molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says that "Koala genetics are a gold mine, what they are going through is the process of what's driven the evolution of every animal on the planet". Previous viral infections have led to major evolutionary changes, he said for example: “A gene that is absolutely essential for the placenta was derived from the shell of a virus millions of years ago.” humans wouldn't exist without that specific retroviral infection. When the viral RNA infects a cell, it takes over the DNA machinery and replicates itself, which keeps the process going. This process is what causes diseases like AIDS, the most known retroviral disease. However, when the insertion of the retrovirus occurs in a sperm or egg cell, the changes become permanent, kept forever. When retroviruses become part of an animals DNA, they are called endogenous and eventually no longer cause the same type of original infection they once did. But they can still be used for other purposes, like making placenta. “It was long thought they were just junk DNA,” said Shawn L. Chavez, a molecular biologist at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland, who wrote a review of research on endogenous retroviruses in mammals. Now it is clear that some of them have changed the course of evolution. Exactly how is what scientists are trying to find out. “It seems like there’s a new publication every day,” she said.

Consequently, koalas are drawing a lot of attention from scientists who did not start out with an interest in the animal or its conservation. “I’m a fruit fly guy,” Dr. Theurkauf said. He became interested after a reading a report in 2006 by Rachael Tarlinton of the University of Nottingham and other scientists about the invasion of the koala genome by the retrovirus. Dr. Tarlinton began her career in Australia as a veterinarian with an interest in infectious diseases in wildlife. She became involved in the study of koala genetics because of the big issue of chlamydia and because Jon Hanger, an independent researcher, had noticed very high death rates from leukemia and other cancers in koalas kept in zoos. Their research led to the discovery that koala retrovirus was causing some cancers, and that it was not only infecting the animals but also part of their genome. Dr. Tarlinton and her colleagues established the presence of the retrovirus in koalas in Queensland, however there is another, a southern population of koalas that at first seemed not to have the virus. These koalas also had fewer chlamydia infections. The genetics of the population in the south are different because most koalas in that region had been killed for the fur trade by the 1920s. Only a few them survived by being moved to small islands at the beginning of the 20th century. From that population, they have been reintroduced and those koalas have done extraordinarily well, even though they have a few genetic problems. There are over 10, 000 of them, in some areas they even have been killed to keep the population down. The researchers expected the southern koalas to be less healthy overall than the northern ones but it was the other way around.

A closer look at the southerners’ DNA showed that they weren’t free from the inherited retrovirus as it was thought. The virus was there but it was damaged. The beginning and end of its genetic code were present, but the middle was missing. A report on this work is now in bioRxiv, an online database for papers that have been written but not yet accepted by claimed journals. It is thought that the missing segment could be the key to saving the koala population, this defective version can be protective. Dr. Tarlinton are planning an experiment, in which there are cells lines which can grow KoRV, then the defective version can be inserted, ans study the cells to determine if the full virus can successfully  infect or inhibit the cells. Dr. Theurkauf and his colleagues found that in koalas there appears to be an initial first-line genome defense involving the piRNA snippets that responds to any virus trying to jump around the genome. Then, a more specific response built to a particular virus comes into play. This is something they want to test further, by looking at koalas in different populations. Dr. Theurkauf and his colleagues also discovered other intriguing clues to what happens as viruses become part of an animal’s DNA. “One thing that we found that is really curious,” Dr. Theurkauf said, is that koalas also have ancient retroviruses that became part of the genome millions of years ago and were presumably deactivated long ago. But at least four of them are just as active as koala retrovirus. They are moving around the genome. “KoRV may be activating these dormant old viruses. It may really stir the pot.” “It’s evolution in real time,” he said.

This is extraordinary to me, its evolution right in front of us, I believe in studying populations of animals and hope to do so in the future. This article was interesting to me because it gathered different scientists from different fields to study this phenomenon. I have been looking more and more into these experiments and I think this is a giant breakthrough in evolutionary and genetic biology. This will help us discover more about how retroviruses work and save the koala population which has previously had many issues perishing.

 A koala ill from KoRV at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital in Queensland.


"DNA test 'accidentally unlocks family mystery'"

This man took a 23andMe test to discover more about his adopted dad. Parents are divorced but the mother always was curious about the fathers biological side. He gave in to take the test and a month later got his results from the DNA test. He saw his mother under the immediate family section but was surprised when he came across a first cousin that he had no idea he had. The profile picture of this first cousin looked exactly like his dad and he knew it had to be his brother. They exchanged emails and as they finally uncovered the details of everything, they realized they really were brothers. Mannerisms, looks, and other traits seemed to be very similar. The families met and later discovered ANOTHER brother. This brother was raised by the parents of each of the mens biological parents so they had some background on the parents. They believe they found another sister but are still yet to track her down and hear her story.

"Rapid DNA" Testing in Rape Investigations

In April, a homeless woman sleeping in an abandoned house in Louisville, Kentucky, was woken up by a stranger who, according to law enforcement, forced her bedding over her head and raped her. The 29-year-old woman was taken to the Louisville University Hospital where the crime was investigated for signs of DNA that might identify her attacker. These responses generally take months in sexual assault cases, and sometimes more than a year - delays that can be traumatic to victims and lessen the chances of prosecuting the assailant. But the suspected attack took place while a new "rapid DNA" instrument was being tested by the Kentucky State Police Laboratory, which is being marketed as a way to identify suspect in hours while victims are still being treated. Because this technology works better in straightforward situations, rapid DN testing for sexual assault cases has worried privacy advocates, criminal lawyers, and some criminal laboratory officials, who warn that unrestricted equipment and technology continues to be at risk of errors and misuse. Many critics caution that the approach is new and might not yield the definitive and clear results claimed by the companies (ANDE and Thermo Fisher Scientific). As a part of the first real-world technology experiments on cases of sexual assault, nurse working with this case in Louisville took extra samples from the alleged victim for the rapid DNA equipment and produced a suspected DNA profile in under three hours. This case, still awaiting trial, demonstrates the potential power of rapid DNA testing as it progresses through the justice system. 


Reesa Trexler was raped, stabbed multiple times and had her spinal cord severed inside her grandparents home in 1984. At the time of her autopsy, a steel blade from the murder weapon still remained in her shoulder. Semen samples were collected from the victim's body, but DNA testing was brand new at the time so they didn't come to any conclusions. They didn't have enough information to narrow down any suspects in her murder. Her case remained unsolved for years until recently. Using semen samples from the crime scene, a laboratory created a genetic data profile and submitted it to a public genetic genealogy database for comparison in hopes of finding a relative that matched closely with the perpetrator. After getting several matches, scientists created individual family trees using, "online genealogy databases, newspaper archives, public family trees, obituaries, and other public records. After additional research, the lab narrowed down the matches to a final list of suspects, which were presented to the police to continue the investigation, which ultimately led them to Curtis Blair." Blair died of a heart failure in 2007, so 'With the suspect being deceased, the Salisbury Police consider the case closed and do not anticipate any charges being placed in relation to the homicide.'

A father bought his daughter to a lab called Gene Discovery to test her DNA–to see if she will be a prodigy when she's older. Basically, this test can let parents know what their babies' "potential talents" are, so they can help strengthen and encourage these activities. Her father was anticipating her being a professional, perhaps a doctor. The results said that she will be talented in math and music, but memorization will not be one of her strengths. So, her father worked on her strengths with her to make sure she can use this to her advantage in the future. This new phenomenon is like fortune telling, with DNA as the crystal ball. It's a way of seeing if your baby is a "super baby" and can be used to assess ability to memorize data, tolerate stress or show leadership. It also shows what potential health risks their child has. Due to China's hyper-competitive culture, the laying out and knowing of these health risks and talents their children will potentially have, has put this new test at a high demand. The sale of the test is even catching up to the US' sales of DNA tests. Knowing this information, parents can provide more focused resources for their children based on their test results. 

EV Wallenberg, daughter of Dan and Laura Wallenberg, was only five months old when she appeared to be eating abnormally, so she visited her pediatrician, who thought she had a simple cold or something viral. After several days following her doctor's visit, EV was not improving, leading to her parents taking her to the hospital where they were told that she was underweight and she was prescribed anti-nausea medication, because she had been vomiting, and sent home. After getting home, EV began throwing up again, but this time it had rusty colored blood in her vomit, so her parents took her back to the emergency room immediately where they did a full check up. Through this check  up, it was found that EV had many kidney stones and her electrolytes were very far out of the normal range, putting her at risk for a heart attack. Through genetic testing, the doctors found that EV has Primary Hyperoxaluria Type 1, a rare genetic disease that only affects 1 to 3 individuals per million in North America. EV is now six years old and is very educated about her disease, and she is doing very well managing her disease through specific medications and diets that do not have high amounts of oxalate in them, as it is a substance that builds up in the kidneys of people with her rare disease. Although EV is doing well, her disease is still doing damage to her body, and she has been told that she will most likely need a liver and kidney transplant by the time she is thirty. All parents should learn from this story to trust their instinct and to not give up when they think there is something wrong with their child. Sika Dunyoh, director of education programs at the National Organization for Rare Disorders, commented on this situation by saying, "You know better than anyone else that something isn't right, don't stop until you get a diagnosis, because you can't get treatment until you get a diagnosis." 


New research shows that even with a genetic risk for the disease, exercise can help avoid depression. During the study, data was taken and studied for about 8,000 people, and it was found that the people with a genetic predisposition, who are more likely to be diagnosed with depression throughout the next couple years, are less likely to develop the disease if they were more active at the start of the study. It was found that both high intensity and low intensity exercises help to protect people who have a high genetic risk for depression. According to the study in the journal Depression and Anxiety, adding only four hours of exercise to your week can lower the risk of a depression episode by 17 percent. Another statement that was released stated that an average of 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day will help reduce risk and protect against future depressive episodes. Karmel Choi, clinical fellow in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, stated that their research findings suggest “when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable.” These new research findings can help patients lower their risk in a simple, and very little time consuming way. Not only is there hope for people with high risks of depression to avoid the disease, there are also many other benefits to adding exercise to your daily routine.


Researchers from Washington State University have found a transparent nematode that is found in soil (caenorhabditis elegans). The researchers found that the immune system of the worm, controls the worms cuticles. Humans share the elegans nematode, ours has a very similar structure. Sun used gene silencing and CRISPR to show that a gene called npr-8 and a G-protein regulate collagen. Nematodes that had the npr-8 receptor removed were seen to survive longer when exposed to pneumonia. The nematodes without the receptor remained smooth, unlike the others whose cuticles wrinkled when exposed to the same pathogen. Declining collagen levels are associated with aging and could also be harmful to organs if they are too loose or too stiff. This study indicates that collagen has an important role in defending pathogen infections.


Anorexia nervosa, a disorder that stems from a distorted body image and fear of weight gain, leading to restrictive eating and weight loss, affects 2 percent of women and .3 percent of men. Due to analyzing genomes of almost 17,o00 patients scientists have recently discovered eight new genetic markers that this condition has, which are both psychiatric and metabolic origins. Janet treasure, a psychiatrist at King’s College London, says “Now, we know it's a complex mixture of aspects from the body and the mind that interact and cause this complex disorder.” Anorexia nervosa shares characteristic single-nucleotide polymorphisms with obsessive compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. It is possible that anorexia nervosa is “linked to the body’s ability to metabolize sugars and fats and high levels of physical activity” through gene variants that are common in anorexia nervosa patients. These variants may send signals to stimulate appetite during extreme starvation and weight loss, allowing people to starve themselves for longer. This is an important study as it helps explain the disease that is so hard to understand and treat. clinical psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Cynthis Bulik, stated that their findings “strongly encourage us to shine the torch on the role of metabolism to help understand why some individuals with anorexia nervosa drop back to dangerously low weights, even after hospital-based refeeding.” There is still no specific answer as to how and why this disease develops, but maybe this finding is another step closer to being able to better treat the disease, and maybe someday even prevent it.


Most apartment complexes never allowed dogs, but now there are emotional support dogs, seeing eye dogs, etc. Really it seemed inevitable, dogs were eventually going to be allowed to live in apartments which isn't a bad thing unless their owners are not responsible for their dogs mess. PooPrints has sprung up especially in the Metro area making tenets have their dogs DNA tested before moving in. They swab the dogs cheek and that sample is sent in to a pet registry. So, now if a tenet is not cleaning up after their dog their landlord has the dogs DNA on file and has the poop in the yard tested. If it comes back to be the tenets dog they will be fined. All across Denver they now have a three strike rule with fines. If the tenet gets more than three fines they could face eviction. I found this article very interesting because when I think of DNA testing I of course never thought of this. I just think it is crazy how much DNA testing is not evolving into our daily regular life almost. It went from detectives looking and testing DNA at crime scenes to now dogs have to get DNA tested before moving into an apartment. I think it is amazing and kind of scary how big of a part DNA now plays in our world. 


Did you know that hundreds of thousands of sexual assault kits remain untested each, and only a third of reported rapes result in an arrest? I didn't know that, and those statistics blew my mind. It is horrible. Luckily scientists have found something that could help change those numbers. This new device device could identify the perpetrator in less than five hours where as traditional sexual assault kits could take months or even years to obtain results. FBI is still not allowed to officially use this device because some believe it is not totally accurate. Judges have also not allowed it to be used as evidence in the courtroom, but so far the testing that has been done with this device has been totally accurate. The device costs $250,000. It is the size of a microwave, and the person who runs it needs no technical experience. The machine does all the hard work for you. What use to be a multi step process is now just a simple one step process. All the person does is put the sample on a disposable chip and run it through the machine and in about three hours they will have a DNA profile. It sounds amazing but some are still worried that this unregulated device could lead to mistakes. It is a new device that may not deliver clear results. Personally I think it is amazing especially after hearing the statistic of rapes cases that go cold. I understand what the critics are saying, it is a new device so you have to take extra precautions, to make sure of its accuracy. But, once they have all the kinks worked out this device will be a complete game changer. 


Imagine having your blood tested and the results coming back with another persons DNA. This happened to Chris Long three months after his bone marrow transplant. His donors DNA had taken over his body invading the DNA in his cheeks and lips. This is not just a random thing, someone who carries two types of DNA are called chimeras. There are many cases where chimeras have messed up investigations for detectives because they find the DNA at a crime scene of a person who lives thousands of miles away. Only to find out the actual perpetrator got a bone marrow transplant. There was another case where they were trying to identify the body of a person and it was not only clear he was a man but they took DNA from his spleen to prove he was a man, but just a simple blood test would show he was a woman. They later found out his daughter donated bone marrow to him. This is very interesting whenever I think of transplants I never think of the person becoming the donor. In the case of Chris Long it went even further and after four years his semen was no longer his it had totally been taken over by his donors DNA. This poses another question, if he were to have children would he pass on the traits of his donor? Scientist believe no, Long had a vasectomy and they think that is why his semen was taken over. In other cases that is very unlikely.