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Geneticist Mary-Claire King receives the 2013 Paul Ehrlich Prize
Date:3/14/2013

eristics, so-called HLA markers, and later by means of genetic technologies. She gained a first significant victory at Christmas 1984 when Argentina's Supreme Court ruled that Paula Logares, one of the missing children who had been unambiguously identified by means of HLA typing, had to be returned to her biological family. To date, 87 of the children, who are now adults, have been reunited with their biological families.

King has also developed methods for the use of genetics in forensic science, for instance, by isolating mitochondrial DNA from a person's bones and teeth. The mitochondria are the cells' power plants. Mitochondrial DNA is interesting for a very particular reason, which is that it always derives from the mother. We know this because the part of the male sperm that fertilizes the ovum does not contain any mitochondria. Consequently, while both sons and daughters have the same mitochondrial DNA as their mothers, it is the daughters who hand this DNA on to their descendants. That means that all female descendants of a maternal line necessarily have the same DNA in their mitochondria. Armed with this knowledge, it is possible to determine the female line of descent beyond the shadow of a doubt. King succeeded in extracting this mtDNA from teeth. Many human skeletal remains have degraded so completely that it is no longer possible to examine hair or tissue, while the DNA in the bones is often too damaged to allow unambiguous identification. DNA is best preserved in the teeth, which is why nowadays it is often the teeth of a dead person that are investigated in order to rediscover the victim's name, identity, life story, and sufferings. King works together with the UN's War Crimes Tribunal. Her laboratory is classified as a secure DNA Identification Lab to which no belligerent party or terrorist regime can have access. King and her co-workers have in the past identified victims from Cambodia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Bosnia.
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Contact: Dr. Hildegard Kaulen
Paul-Ehrlich-Stiftung@pvw.uni-frankfurt.de
49-612-252-718
Goethe University Frankfurt
Source:Eurekalert  

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Geneticist Mary-Claire King receives the 2013 Paul Ehrlich Prize
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