DNA question

Chris Boyd chrisb at hgu.mrc.ac.uk
Wed Aug 5 05:23:49 EST 1998

Mr. G. Morley (gmorley at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk) wrote:

: In article <Pine.OSF.3.93.980804121847.13968C-100000 at sparrow.qut.edu.au>,
:   BELINDA PARIS <n1579525 at sparrow.qut.edu.au> wrote:
: >
: > I don't know if this is the correct place to post this question, but here
: > goes:
: >
: > If somebody spontaneously combusts, is it possible to determine from the
: > pile of ashes left, if they were human, or anything about that person by
: > DNA or some other technique. e.g. is mitochondrial dna useful?
: >

Firstly, there is no evidence for *spontaneous* human combustion (see
http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~btcarrol/skeptic/shc.html). In every
properly documented case, a more mundane explanation can be given.
Certainly you get unusual scenarios where part of a person is
incinerated to ash whereas adjacent tissue is left virtually intact,
though why this is taken as evidence for spontanenous combustion is
beyond me.


: However there was such a case where combustion was 100% complete I
:  should imagine it would be possible
: to work out the approximate size of the combustee by examining the amount
: of debris (ie: minerals and ash) that remained. 
: Recent advances in forensic PCR (which can get a DNA finger print from
: a single cell), suggests that a DNA profile can be obtained merely from 
: swabbing down and PCR'ing surfaces that bare skin may have come into 
: contact with.

Sounds reasonable.  Also, you could ask the neighbours.

Best wishes,
Chris Boyd                      | from, but not \ MRC Human Genetics Unit,
Christopher.Boyd at hgu.mrc.ac.uk  | on behalf of  /  Western General Hospital,
http://www.hgu.mrc.ac.uk/Users/Christopher.Boyd \   Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, SCOTLAND

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