Friday October 18, 2019
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Scientists Find New Ways of Tracking Objects by Combining DNA of Dust Particles

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists

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dust particles, DNA
Scientists say they have new ways of tracking where clothing, medicines and other items are made, making it harder for unscrupulous businesses to sell items that don't work or violate laws. VOA

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists.

Researchers are analyzing the microorganisms in dust particles that land on surfaces and are using artificial intelligence to read and classify the unique genetic codes of the microbes that vary from place to place.

“It is the collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa that are present in any environment,” said Jessica Green, microbial systems expert and co-founder of Phylagen, a company that is building a microbial map of the world. Phylagen is collecting dust from different places and turning it into data by studying the DNA of the microscopic organisms in the particles.

DNA, dust particles
This digitally colorized microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shows Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in yellow. Bacteria are part of the collection of microorganisms that tell scientists where an object has been. VOA

Exposing labor abuses

Phylagen says its findings will provide real world applications. The California-based company says one application involves companies that outsource the manufacturing of products, such as clothing.

According to Human Rights Watch, unauthorized subcontracting of facilities in the apparel industry occurs often, and it is in these places that some of the worse labor abuses happen.

Phylagen is digitizing the genome of different locations by working in more than 40 countries and sampling the dust in hundreds of factories. The goal is to create a database so the microbes on each product can be traced.

“We sample the DNA of the products, and then, we use machine learning algorithms to map what is on the product with the factory, and can therefore verify for brands that their goods are made by their trusted suppliers in factories where you have good labor conditions, good environmental conditions versus unauthorized facilities which can be really detrimental,” Green said.

Tracking diseases, ships

With a database of distinct microbial DNA, Green said other possible future uses could include predicting the outbreak of disease and helping law enforcement track the movement of ships, since shipping logs can be falsified. Even counterfeit medicines could be traced as the database of microbial information grows, she said.

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“We can sequence the DNA of seized counterfeit pills, cluster together pills that have similar microbial signatures and then use that to help both pharmaceutical companies and the government, the U.S. government, gain some intelligence about how many different sources of these manufacturing facilities are there,” Green said. (VOA)

Next Story

DNA Changes May Trigger Cancer Along with Other Age-related Diseases

Experts say they will now explore the link between these DNA changes and biological ageing acceleration

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Scientists have found a way of mapping out human DNA.
Scientists have found a way of mapping out human DNA.
DNA changes throughout a person’s life can significantly increase their susceptibility to heart conditions and other age-related diseases, says a research led by an Indian-origin scientist.
Such alterations — known as somatic mutations — can impact the way blood stem cells work and are associated with blood cancers and other conditions, said scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
These somatic mutations and the associated diseases they cause may accelerate a person’s biological age — how old their body appears — faster than their chronological age.
“Previously, somatic mutations have largely been studied in cancer. Our findings suggest they play a role in other diseases, which will change the way we study disease risk,” said Dr Tamir Chandra, Group Leader at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Human Genetics Unit.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, examined these changes and their potential effects in more than 1,000 older people from the Lothian Birth Cohorts (LBCs), born in 1921 and 1936.
Cancer
Cancer Ribbon. Pixabay
The LBCs are a group of people – now in their 80s and 90s – who sat intelligence tests as 11-year olds. They are some of the most-intensively studied research participants in the world.
Scientists studied people where the biological and chronological age was separated by a large gap.
They found the participants with somatic mutations – around six per cent – had a biological age almost four years older than those with no alterations.
Experts say they will now explore the link between these DNA changes and biological ageing acceleration. (IANS)