Thursday, February 22, 2007

BYOS - Dali DNA


by blogger jgl

AAFS Annual Meeting (BYOS):

This was a neat one. Michael Rieders tells the story of his obsession (sort of) with Salvador Dali and how he really wanted to get his hands on Dali's DNA.

How did he do it? After many offers of materials lacking reliability ("I have his moustache!"), eventually a friend of Dali turned up with a nasogastric tube that Dali used when recovering from a house fire incident during his later years. It had some blood and goop on it and resulted in a single male profile.

Why do it? For fun, mainly. But it does open up the chance to authenticate some works of art that may have Dali's "fluids" on them. Or test his DNA for a genius gene. Cloning was mentioned.

Two camments for any of my students or amateur forensic scientists... the nasogastric tube was stored for years in paper. Good news, right... air dry, no moisture, no bacteria to degrade the DNA. Also, it was mentioned they used the Takayama test to determine there was, in fact, blood on the tube. Takayama!? Who does crystal tests these days? Why not TMB? Is there a sensitivity issue I'm not aware of, or are just dealing with show-offs?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Takayama crystal test was probably used because it's more specific than TMB (i.e., tetramethylbenzidine). The test is specific to the ferroprotoporphyrin ring structure that is in the alpha- and beta-chains in hemoglobin. It is not, however, unique to hemoglobin; it can be found most notably in catalase, peroxidase, and myoglobin. TMB, on the other hand, has a number of sources of false positives, which include botanical sources (e.g., horseradish), animal sources (e.g., pus), and chemical oxidants (e.g., bleach). Given that the item was a nasogastric tube, fluids such as mucus and stomach acids could potentially have been problematic. In the 95 years since Takayama's publication, this test has fallen out of favor in forensic science, and that's a shame. This appears to be the result of a lack of understanding about the test, further propagated by one generation being incompletely trained by its predecessor. In the right hands, this test is almost certainly the most sensitive method available. I can get results from a flake of blood that would fit in the hole in the center of the "9" on a face of a dime... and give you half of it back. (Look for the "9" in the year of any dime from the 20th century.)

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