MadSci Network: Cell Biology

Re: what role does mitochondria play in forensic biology?

Date: Mon Mar 20 23:24:33 2000
Posted By: Mark Sullivan, Medical Student
Area of science: Cell Biology
ID: 953085543.Cb

Hi Lisa,
     Mitochondria are cellular components that are responsible for 
producing most of the energy for the cell by oxidative phosphorylation.  
What is interesting about them is that they are thought to be the remnants 
of symbiotic bacteria.  The reason for this belief is that mitochondria 
have their own genome.  Now this mitochondrial DNA is useful for forensics 
in that it is only passed from the mother so it can be used to determine 
lineage.  Its sequence is not as variable as the DNA in a cell's 
nucleus so it is not as useful in determining the uniqueness of an 
individual.  Mitochondrial analysis is used for determining the origin of 
humans.  The idea is that the origin of humans can be traced back to an early 
ancestor through the maternal lineage.  So with ennough fossil samples from 
early hominids and a lot of DNA sequencing science should be able to determine 
what kind of creature represents the link between apes and humans.  Here are 
some interesting links to follow and learn more.  

DNA Testing 
Reddy's Forensic Home 
Page: DNA 
Reddy's Forensic Home 
Page: Anthropology

Good luck

Mark Sullivan
[Mitochondrial DNA can also used in forensics for identifying remains found in 
mass graves, such as those in Bosnia]

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