Tag Archives: dna

Charging candy with a crime, welcome to Gattica

Well, candy with DNA that is. As reported in the Kansas City Star, Police, without suspect, charge DNA on evidence before statute of limitations expires .

As described in the article:


A critical crime solver, genetic science has clinched guilty verdicts in murder and rape cases for years. Now, as the technology advances, prosecutors in a few pockets of the country — including Kansas City — systematically use DNA evidence to file what are known as “John Doe” complaints, or no-name warrants, in less serious crimes such as burglary and vandalism.

“If you don’t stop the clock from ticking, there’s nothing you can do,” said Ted Hunt, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor who specializes in DNA evidence. “It’s too late.”

Since 2002, Jackson County prosecutors have filed 28 John Doe complaints, and Hunt said that number would grow substantially. That’s because police and prosecutors make sure they watch the clock.

Whenever a burglary, robbery or vandalism with DNA evidence is nearing its statute of limitation, police alert Hunt’s office, and prosecutors file a no-name charge.

By filing these complaints, and charging the DNA instead of a named suspect, prosecutors put cases on hold until they know whose genetic fingerprint they charged. These cases otherwise wouldn’t be solved within the statute of limitations, and the suspects would be let off scot-free.

Scientifically, I guess this might be legitimate. DNA forensics, though not without it’s caveats, is a powerful tool. Yet, as one defense attorney stated:


“If a defendant in a property crime is arrested 20 years after the fact, based on his DNA, he’s not able to defend himself effectively,” said J.R. Hobbs, a Kansas City defense attorney.

There is more to determining who committed a crime than determining if they left DNA behind, of course. There are eyewitnesses (which are notoriously inaccurate even immediately after the fact) and witnesses who have died or can not be found, or whose memories.

I’ll be looking forward to the first Supreme Court Case on this.

(hat tip: raw story)

Edit: links were broken in 1/14 but I needed a version of the story, so I found it here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/02/15/85118/lacking-suspects-prosecutors-now.html


Tip of the Week: Clock Gene Music


If you didn’t know it already, there is an entire community out there, having noted the similarity between biological sequences and music, that has been working out methods to convert DNA and protein sequences into music using the properties/differences in the bases and amino acids. Some of the results of this fiddling have created some interesting, and often haunting and beautiful, music. One such site is Gene2Music. Here, several people (Rie Takahashi, Jeffery Miller et. al) have created an algorithm to translate gene sequences into music. In this tip of the week we’ll show you the site and how to take a gene of interest and create your own piece. Take a quick listen to Human ThyA (audio) and then listen to a piece composed by Rie Takahashi based on the themes of ThyA. Impressive. Maybe the next Mozart will do a series of compositions based on the human genome (that will be one long concert).

Happy DNA Day!

dna dayWatson and Crick’s discovery was 55 years ago (original Nature article). The Human genome was completed 5 years ago.

And thus DNA Day every April 25th in celebration of those two huge milestones. The celebrations often revolve around education and educational tools to teach students, scientists and the public about the science behind DNA and the genome.

As we mentioned last week (that post has more interesting information about DNA Day), we are celebrating here too. Well, actually we celebrate DNA day every day ;), it’s our job.. but in extra celebration…

We are offering a tutorial on how to use the NCBI Map Viewer. The NCBI Map Viewer, as our blurb says,

organizes and displays dozens of species genomes, and provides additional context with appropriate annotations for the genomic sequences. Extensive integration with other NCBI tools enables researchers to link quickly to relevant additional details.mapviewer

So, go check it out and learn a little more in celebration of DNA Day! (and don’t forget, there are 7 free full tutorial suites available)

Also, DNA Day is begin celebrated around the world, check out some of these celebrations:

At “Eye on DNA” points to a DNA Day ECard!

Go to the DNA Day Chat Room at the National Human Genome Research Institute

Go extract your own DNA or “write your name in DNA” in beads of four colors for the real DNA geek in you.

Read some “Reflections on DNA Day” at SEA.

Acronyms make me cringe

Ok, it has something to do with having been in the Army reserves and active duty, but I really have an aversion to acronyms.. BDU, MRE, AWOL, and the list goes on and on. The Army speaks in an acronym language nearly impervious to outsiders.

So do scientists. MAP, HIV, TE, LTR, DNA, BLAST, YAC, BAC and on and on. Even though some of these acronyms have made it into general parlance (DNA, HIV), some can be not only be life-science specific, but also field-specific. You’ll see something like “Transposable elements (TEs) are known in every… ” but sometimes you won’t see them so nicely spelled out and it’ll be more like “TEs are known in every…” Sigh.

How do you decode? Continue reading