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The Application & Funding of DNA & Isotopic ID Techniques


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#51 ph0ebus

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 01:09 PM

Money for any kind of DNA research is tight and budgets are being reduced all round. Spend more on a and you have less to spend on b Simples

Hi Centurion,

This assumes a fixed-size pie view of economics. Not everyone subscribes to this. :)

That said, assuming the fixed-size scenario, maybe we should as a society smoke and drink less, and exercise more, and with the savings gained by reduced preventable disease and the correlated reduction in use of ever-dwindling medical resources, boost funding for research and perhaps curing other diseases quicker? I would suspect bad health habits eat up far more money than DNA testing does.

:thumbsup:

-Daniel

#52 ianw

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 03:54 PM

It's interesting that both the recent successful Canadian ID and the Australian ID secured by Martin Brown's team were assisted by additional isotopic analysis to get a steer on the place of origin of the individuals concerned.

I would think it likely that the DNA and isotopic testing will routinely be done together to cut down the group of "possibles" as much as possible to actuaaly minimise testing.

Depending on your point of view, you may greet this news by either saying "More Expense!" or "More success!"

I would imagine that the "fine tuning" of the Fromelles ID process may see further use of isotopics? Can anyone "in the know" cast any light into our darkness?

The Fromelles Joint ID Board meets again in April. I wish them the best of good luck in getting further IDs.

#53 Auimfo

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 12:28 AM

If isotopic analysis reduces the number of possibles (and it usually does) then that generally reduces the number of descendant families whose DNA requires comparison, thereby possibly reducing the cost of the entire process when complete. In other words, it might be a case of spending a little extra at the beginning to reduce the overall cost.

Isotopic analysis has already been successfully used at Pheasant Wood. In at least one case, no DNA comparison was available but a combination of historical, archaeological, anthropological and isotopic analysis was enough to secure an ID. What mustn't be forgotten is that DNA alone wasn't enough to base an identity on. Most definitely it was a major contributing factor without which many ID's would not have been made but combinations of the other scientific evaluations were also taken into consideration.

Cheers,
Tim L.

#54 Keith Roberts

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 11:09 AM

Gentlemen

There are some proper issues for concern to discuss here, but in view of the obvious tensions can we please ensure that ALL comment from now is limited to the issues, not the intellectual or other merits of participants. If this thread does not keep a civilised tone then it will have to end. Differing from another contributor is fine, but that difference must be kept polite and concentrate on the issues.

This is an internet forum, but that is not an excuse for inappropriate contributions. Threads become very confused if posts end up being deleted, and we appear to be heading in that direction.


Keith

#55 MelPack

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 06:32 PM

I have asked around about the issue of costings for DNA analysis.

The extraction of a DNA sequence from vascular tooth pulp from remains of WW1 vintage costs in the region of £2,000. Those costs can rise dependant on how degraded the DNA sample is by ground conditions or the need to extract a sample from other bone elements.

The sequencing of comparative DNA from a living Mito donor costs in the region of £800 - £1,000 and for a living Y donor between £300-500.

The above are open market commercial rates that can be significantly reduced by the tendering process and the fact that leading laboratories tend to regard such contracts as prestige projects with commercial benefits beyond immediate remuneration.

Mel

#56 Piorun

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 07:56 PM

What would be the costs of salaries, rent, etc for the people involved in tracing relatives, searching databases, and the like? It would be interesting to cost out the whole exercise from discovery of the remains through storage and the search and discovery of potential relatives to the testing and the confirmation and burial. Antony

#57 Tom Tulloch-Marshall

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 09:59 PM

To try and make an argument that attempting to identify a yearly handful of recovered bodies from the WW1 battlefields has in any way a detrimental effect on medicinal advances for children really does appear a little desperate and nonsensical.


That's an interesting statement; as are some of the others made by yourself and your fellow travellers. In my apparent capacity as Mother Teresa of Calcutta (I presume that's the intended one) I have added you all to my prayers :thumbsup:

So much of this so-called “discussion” is substantially pie-in-the sky; a load of pseudo-intellectual blether, and make believe economics of the madhouse.

It will never, in any significant form, come to anything.

Au revoir on this one.

Tom

#58 Blackblue

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 10:33 PM

What would be the costs of salaries, rent, etc for the people involved in tracing relatives, searching databases, and the like? It would be interesting to cost out the whole exercise from discovery of the remains through storage and the search and discovery of potential relatives to the testing and the confirmation and burial. Antony


That would be impossible...no two cases would be the same. People need to get the Fromelles situation out of their heads as far as overall cost goes as such a project is unlikely to be repeated, particularly on such a scale.

The answer is very little. For the vast majority of recoveries what we would see would simply tacking the DNA process onto the existing recovery and ID framework (which is already being done in most relevant cases). The Australian Defence Force (for Army mainly the Army History Unit) is involved in tracing relatives, which forms part of their usual business for recoveries, regardless of DNA testing.

In Australia having DNA extracted from remains and comparing it to a sample from a living donor can be achieved for as little as $300 - $500 AUD.

Rgds

Tim D

#59 Blackblue

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 10:38 PM

That's an interesting statement; as are some of the others made by yourself and your fellow travellers. In my apparent capacity as Mother Teresa of Calcutta (I presume that's the intended one) I have added you all to my prayers :thumbsup:

So much of this so-called “discussion” is substantially pie-in-the sky; a load of pseudo-intellectual blether, and make believe economics of the madhouse.

It will never, in any significant form, come to anything.

Au revoir on this one.

Tom


:blink:

RIP Tom.

:poppy:

#60 ph0ebus

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 11:13 PM

So much of this so-called “discussion” is substantially pie-in-the sky; a load of pseudo-intellectual blether, and make believe economics of the madhouse.

Tom

Actually, those conversations are confined to Skindles.

:thumbsup:

Antony raises a good question but if we are looking for the average cost we should be wary of outliers like Fromelles skewing our result. I think it is doable but we would need someone with experience in this area to give their impressions, I would think.

I am a little incensed that JPAC has not acknowledged my inquiry (which should have been by now) so if I get no answer by Friday I may nudge them again.

I was also thinking about the burden of doing an excavation in a farmer's field and wondered what might be done to ease the burden substantially enough to encourage more people to report. The monetary incentive indeed is a path fraught with peril, as is stepping up enforcement of current laws to punish people who fail to report, if not hide, finds on their land. In thinking about rescue archaeology and how it might be applied to what we are discussing, if we were able to limit the intrusion and disruption on someone's land (both in terms of time and square footage), that might help things, but I am curious to know from a bona fide archaeologist whether they think that is even practical. I hope one or two are reading this and might weigh in.

-Daniel

#61 Auimfo

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 01:48 AM

That's an interesting statement; as are some of the others made by yourself and your fellow travellers.


Farewell Tom,

And I was so looking forward to you actually outlining your point of view somewhere in the conversation. :thumbsup:

Cheers,
Tim L.

#62 ianw

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 08:09 AM

So much of this so-called “discussion” is substantially pie-in-the sky; a load of pseudo-intellectual blether, and make believe economics of the madhouse.

It will never, in any significant form, come to anything.
Tom


Nothing "so-called" about this discussion. In your own inimitable way, you are taking part in it.

The technology your rubbish above is being currently used to great effect - as in the case of the Canadian identified this very week. The genie is out of the bottle never to return. It will be used to identify casualties in the future - although may not as much as it should be. Financial constraints will certainly have an impact.

The Fromelles Joint ID board meets again in April. You can be sure that the application of all ID technologies will be actively considered by this group to tease out extra IDs.

Of course, this group of experts will be involved in future projects to secure IDs for other casualties and they will take their Fromelles experience with them and continue to use the technology that has served them so well.

There seems to be a likelihood that significant numbers of remains are awaiting discovery in the Bullecourt area.
If this materialises ID work will be needed and will certainly be pursued. I am sure we will all be interested in any results.

#63 31543 Ogilwy

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 02:58 PM

As an archaeologist who uses all of the techniques that you are talking about, there is of course one thing that is vital in all this; For British Servicemen the records from the Great War are next to non-existant. It is the ability to access these records from most commonwealth countries (and Germany also) that have enabled us to ID many of the soldiers we have found (the latest Plugstreet sucess for one).
Without records in the first place the chances of an ID are reduced to almost non-existant, indeed most British Servicemen for whom a positive ID has been obtained it is down to good archaeological practice identifying a name or Regimental Number from the associated finds assemblage, and not DNA or Strontium Isotope analysis or any of the other lab based methods carried out on the remains.

Therefore discussion about spending money carrying out testing is all well and good but I'm afraid the lack of records due to either poor documentation at the time or subsequent destruction render the exercise null and void. I wish we had the records available that some nations do but simply we don't. Should however the possibility arise from information that comes to light that an ID might be possible then all the tests are automatically carried out. The system exists and works, but I'm afraid that without the initial stage in the investigation no amount of tests will affect the outcome.

Rod

(yes my real name, not a psudonym (I would not have chosen Roderick or any abreviated form there of if I were using one!))

#64 seadog

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 05:25 PM

Interesting Rod, so how was the Australian at Plugstreet identified?.

Regards
Norman

#65 David Faulder

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 06:18 PM

>><<
Without records in the first place the chances of an ID are reduced to almost non-existant, indeed most British Servicemen for whom a positive ID has been obtained it is down to good archaeological practice identifying a name or Regimental Number from the associated finds assemblage, and not DNA or Strontium Isotope analysis or any of the other lab based methods carried out on the remains.
>><<

Rod

I would welcome more detail on the above argument. My understanding is that with British Soldiers the key factor was that the ID tags were very much less durable that other nations - which makes swift ID of an isolated body difficult. However with recent finds, like the 15 sets of remains found at Beaucamps-Ligny, "associated finds" enable identification of the Regiment and (from extensive battalion level records - War Diaries etc.) the specific battalion of that regiment can be identified. I have always understood that the records of the dead/missing such as the CWGC roll of honour or SDGW were believed to be reasonably reliable and in the case of Beaucamps-Ligny a shortlist of 58 soldiers of that regiment and battalion who are missing (from that date and approximate place) with no known grave has been identified.

The destruction of Other Ranks records in the WW2 Blitz means that we do not have service records with information about height and weight etc. to try and (possibly) identify remains by measurement of major bones etc.

I would have thought that in these circumstances (lack of records) DNA (if extractable) is the most likely means to identify these remains. (Finding Y Chromosome and mtDNA relevant relatives to supply matching samples is well advanced - see the Ligny Family Tree Overview - Ancestry.co.uk.)

This particular example would seem to me to be a prime example of where modern technologies may identify at least some of these 15 remains. We seem to be talking about distinct "sets of remains" and a restricted list of "possibles".

David

#66 Auimfo

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 12:16 PM

Rod (I believe you!!)

I absolutely agree that a lack of individual service records for British sevicemen certainly makes the task more difficult. I would also agree that DNA alone isn't necessarily the answer. But as David points out, any associated archaeological finds may indicate a regiment and from there other sources of information can be utilized to narrow the list of possibilities. Of course there are going to be cases where no amount of effort will ever produce an ID and I think we all accept that but the fact that many British service records are missing doesn't necessarily mean it's an impossibility. As I and most others have been stating, these scientific applications need only be applied where the circumstances indicate an ID might be possible from initial investigations.

And of course we still have to take into account the many other countries whose records are still intact. Should their opportunity for identification rest on the fact that identifying British soldiers is a little more difficult? (I know that's not what Rod is suggesting but I feel it's a point that needs a mention).

Cheers,
Tim L.

#67 31543 Ogilwy

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 12:54 PM

Everyone,

Thanks for the replies and interest in my little addition to this thread. Please excuse me for being brief but I'm currently deployed on Op's and only get a short time on the Internet so have to read, log off, compose, log on and then post! I shall work on this and post tomorrow (work permitting). But in a nut shell if you have no idea who's remains you are looking at then at best you have hundreds or thousands of possible soldiers. It is the ability to work this down to a reasonable level that at that point that makes DNA testing ETC viable.

As for the Pte Mather I will comtact Martin and Richard (both are on this forum) and ask them if they would kindly make a post. Although part of the team that conducted the excavation as directors they should reply (good manners and all!).

Keep smiling, any you hear land have missed you!

Rod

P.S. This machine now says I have 30 seconds!

#68 Auimfo

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 12:10 PM

"But in a nut shell if you have no idea who's remains you are looking at then at best you have hundreds or thousands of possible soldiers. It is the ability to work this down to a reasonable level that at that point that makes DNA testing ETC viable"

You have no opposition from me on that (and I think most of the DNA advocates here would also agree with you). That's precisely what we mean by cases where there is a reasonable chance of an ID being made. i.e. we can narrow down the field to a workable size.

Cheers,
Tim L.

#69 ph0ebus

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 12:29 PM

I would agree with the above. I would ask if it is current practice to take and store, where possible, DNA samples from found remains in the event in the future the remains can be ID's by this method and thus not necessate an possible exhumation?

-Daniel

#70 David Faulder

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 01:38 PM

"But in a nut shell if you have no idea who's remains you are looking at then at best you have hundreds or thousands of possible soldiers. It is the ability to work this down to a reasonable level that at that point that makes DNA testing ETC viable"

You have no opposition from me on that (and I think most of the DNA advocates here would also agree with you). That's precisely what we mean by cases where there is a reasonable chance of an ID being made. i.e. we can narrow down the field to a workable size.

Cheers,
Tim L.


In many/most "discovery cases", there are artefacts that give some indication of some level of unit (e.g. Regiment). If you have the unit and the location of the find, it is often the case that historical research (such as when battalions of a particular regiment where in a particular area) will yield a list of the missing from particular engagements. I believe the JCCC when they know the regiment, approach the successor regiment to find out when they had units in that area - I hope that the modern regiments do have the ability to provide that information.

If the list of the missing (i) from that unit, (ii) from dates when they were in that location, is sufficiently "short", scientific approaches may be the only available method of identification in the absence of other evidence. Tools like Geoff's search engine can, given a unit and range of dates, give a list of those died/killed together with how they are commemorated - those with known graves can be excluded to leave the "short-list". The questions then are:
  • Can you get a viable sample from the remains? (if not all "present" bets are off)
    • If not, should "samples" (such as a tooth or minor bone) be retained, so that if future technology makes extraction of samples viable, work can be done without re-exhumation (which is where I personally draw the line)?
  • How "short" does the shortlist have to be? (For instance a short list of 58 possible identies for 15 sets of remains would be short in my view).
  • Can sufficient y-Chromosome or mtDNA relevant relations* be found for people on the shortlist - to make the exercise "viable"?
    • Do you need more than one match to be "confident" of a specific identification?
    • What percentage of the short-list needs to have relatives willing to be sampled? (Genealogical research would tend to indicate a "better than evens" chance of finding a relevant relative for each member of the shortlist)
    • Should this tracing be done by the likes of JCCC - or will they be willing to rely on the work of amateur genealogists (suitable documented)? (Why not?)
    • Should the likes of the JCCC be responsible for approaching relatives? (My preference)
    • Can a process be set-up whereby samples are given for a specific investigation (to a trusted third party) - and destroyed after establishing whether or not there is a match?
David

* My understanding is that (assuming a male casualty):
  • For a y-Chromosome relevant relative, you need one of:
    • a male descendent of a member of the short list through a purely male line (son of son etc.)
    • a male descendent of a male ancestor of a member of the short list, where the member of the short list is descended purely through the male line from that common ancestor. (e.g. a son of a son of a son (a great grandson) of the father of the member of the shortlist, a son of a son of a son (of a son ...) (a great (great ...) grandson) of the paternal grandfather of the member of the shortlist, etc.)
  • For an mtNDA relevant relative, you need:
    • a female descendent of a female ancestor of a member of the short list, where the member of the short list is descended purely through the female line from that common ancestor.
  • For other (less certain?) forms of DNA matching any genetically related relative can be used.
I think this means (with extensions into further generations):
Attached File  yChromosomeRelations.JPG   48.66KB   0 downloads
Edit: Corrected 13 Mar 2011
Attached File  mtDNARelations.JPG   40.65KB   0 downloads

#71 seadog

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 12:34 PM

With reference to my post 64 does anyone know how this soldier was eventually identified?.

Regards
Norman

#72 MelPack

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 03:04 PM

David

Every individual on your MtDNA diagram should be coloured red with the exception of the soldier's son and daughter.

Remember that MtDNA is transmitted by the female to both sons and daughters but only the daughters can transmit it to the next generation.

In your diagram all the males (with the exception of the soldier's son) have their Mito derived from the maternal grandmother.

Mel

#73 David Faulder

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 04:16 PM

Mel,

Thanks, diagram and text amended.

David

#74 Richard Osgood

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 01:12 PM

Hi all,
in response to Norman's post (#64) above in the processes undertaken to identify Pte Alan Mather I shall be brief (as it could easily take pages!)

1) Recovery of the body by forensic archaeological process - this established exact position on battleifeld and relation to German lines

2) Examination of artefacts to establish the soldier was Australian (through insignia), not an officer, and probably infantry of one of the initial attack details.

The following processes often ran at the same time (with contributions by Australian Army History Unit, Several Universities, No-Man's-Land Archaeology, other volunteers) and took up many long nights.

3) Forensic Anthropology of the remains. This established age, height & stature, dentition, previous traumatic traces

4) Isotope analysis. This established the region of Australia from which our man came (there is an excellent geological spread and thus good differentiation can be gained. Furthermore, it can remove British born Anzacs from the list).

5) Forensic dentistry - yes, dental record survived for Alan

6) History of the Australian Units in the region and their lists of missing (not just Messines)

7) Red Cross Records

This enabled a small enough base group for us to try for MDNA and it was this crucial match which agve the ID. Without stages 1-7 DNA checks would have been problematic. We researched the moving stories of many other Australian soldiers in the process

I hope that this helps - Martin and I worked VERY hard on this (as did all the other groups) and we were overwhelemed to get a result. I should stress, as Rod has, that Alan's case is perhaps atypical with the quality of records and the fact that we could draw in so many specialists to our project without charge.

cheers
R

#75 31543 Ogilwy

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 05:12 PM

Richard,

Thanks for elaborating on Alan's case. I'll call soon and see you July.

The Bloods still rushing to my head down here!!!

Rod

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