Friday, March 1, 2024

Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

What's New With DNA


DNA is the most exciting tool for genealogists and the family researcher as well. That statement has been true since the first commercial testing became affordable several years ago. The ability to compare test results and identify people around the globe who share ancestral lineage is, simply, amazing. Knowledge made widely available and affordable!

Recently, while researching my series on the Gilgo Beach Serial Murders, I was shocked to discover new technology had progressed to permit a DNA profile to be extracted from hair samples with no root! Previously only mitochondrial DNA could be determined. A huge forensic advancement.

What else is new in DNA science, I wondered. Well, quite a lot it seems. Such a complex subject requires far more training than I possess; however, I can research. So that's what this month's column is focused upon: research and links for other inquiring minds to review if desired.


First, it would be helpful to have a basic understanding of how molecular biology works to crack the code of life's creation. Thus, a site that teaches how the scientists cracked the code. (The first page of the college level text is reached through the following link. Subsequent pages can be opened at the bottom of each page. Explore if you're interested.)


"These three letters “DNA” have now become associated with crime solving, paternity testing, human identification, and genetic testing. DNA can be retrieved from hair, blood, or saliva. With the exception of identical twins, each person’s DNA is unique and it is possible to detect differences between human beings on the basis of their unique DNA sequence.

"DNA analysis has many practical applications beyond forensics and paternity testing. DNA testing is used for tracing genealogy and identifying pathogens. In the medical field, DNA is used in diagnostics, new vaccine development, and cancer therapy. It is now possible to determine predisposition to many diseases by analyzing genes.

"DNA is the genetic material passed from parent to offspring for all life on Earth. The technology of molecular genetics developed in the last half century has enabled us to see deep into the history of life to deduce the relationships between living things in ways never thought possible. It also allows us to understand the workings of evolution in populations of organisms. Over a thousand species have had their entire genome sequenced, and there have been thousands of individual human genome sequences completed. These sequences will allow us to understand human disease and the relationship of humans to the rest of the tree of life. Finally, molecular genetics techniques have revolutionized plant and animal breeding for human agricultural needs. All of these advances in biotechnology depended on basic research leading to the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, and the research since then that has uncovered the details of DNA replication and the complex process leading to the expression of DNA in the form of proteins in the cell."



Simple Summary:

"Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a powerful tool used in genomics research. NGS can sequence millions of DNA fragments at once, providing detailed information about the structure of genomes, genetic variations, gene activity, and changes in gene behavior. Recent advancements have focused on faster and more accurate sequencing, reduced costs, and improved data analysis. These advancements hold great promise for unlocking new insights into genomics and improving our understanding of diseases and personalized healthcare. This review article provides an overview of NGS technology and its impact on various areas of research, such as clinical genomics, cancer, infectious diseases, and the study of the microbiome."



Talking Glossary
of Genomic and Genetic Terms
The glossary features nearly 250 terms explained in an easy-to-understand way by leading scientists and professionals at the National Human Genome Research Institute.



DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

Further Reading: (The Source site provides links to each bulleted subject listed below.)

  • What is DNA?
  • DNA Properties
  • DNA Chemical Modifications
  • DNA Biological Functions
  • DNA Interactions with Proteins
  • DNA Genetic Recombination
  • DNA Evolution
  • History of DNA Research: Scientific Pioneers & Their Discoveries
  • DNA and Technology
  • DNA Translation
  • RNA Codons and DNA Codons
  • The 1968 Nobel Prize in Medicine
  • DNA Sequencing
  • DNA Sequence Assembly
  • Structure of DNA
  • What is the RNA World Hypothesis?
  • DNA Replication and Repair
  • History of Microarrays
  • How Do Microarrays Work?
  • What is Satellite DNA?
  • Interactions That Hold DNA Together
  • Role of Transcription Factors
  • The i-motif in DNA
  • What is DNA Loop Extrusion?
  • DNA Loop Extrusion Mechanisms
  • Mechanism of DNA Synthesis
  • Histones and the Cell Cycle
  • How to Store DNA
  • What are DNA Nanomachines?
  • What is a Semi-synthetic Organism?
  • Types of Non-Coding DNA Sequences
  • The Effects of Neanderthal DNA on Modern Human Health
  • * * * * *



    What is the new DNA technology CRISPR?

    "A: CRISPR genome editing allows scientists to quickly create cell and animal models, which researchers can use to accelerate research into diseases such as cancer and mental illness. In addition, CRISPR is now being developed as a rapid diagnostic."

    * * * * *



    What has DNA technology improved?

    "DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system. DNA can be used to identify criminals with incredible accuracy when biological evidence exists, and DNA can be used to clear suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes."


    * * * * *


    No, dear reader, not by a long sight. The sources offered, however, do cover the latest advances in technology and processes as well as resources for a basic understanding of terms and ground floor education in molecular biology. Perhaps we will return to this exercise in future columns.

    In the meantime, continue exploration of your personal DNA and family research, building your tree and, perhaps, becoming acquainted with newfound cousins!

    Make use of the advances in your personal Armchair Genealogy. See you next month.

    Click on the author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
    This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

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