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Rounding Up the Usual (DNA-Based) Suspects

DNA is contributing to crime fighting in more than one way, says Scientific American. Danish researchers who sequenced DNA from the Stone Age were able to come up with a portrait of what their subject may have looked like, down to the shape of his teeth and his chances of being bald. Scientific American's Christine Soares says this development could mark the next step in forensic science. "Far beyond using DNA 'fingerprints' to link an individual to a crime scene, forensic profiling is edging toward the capability to create a police-artist-style sketch of an unknown person by reading traits inscribed in the genome," she says. The researchers profiling the Stone Age man examined his SNPs to determine skin color, eye and hair color, tooth shape, and even type of earwax, which enabled them to pinpoint his ancestry. Soares says DNA portraits could be used the same way in forensic investigations, helping to narrow the pool of suspects. DNA could even point to a suspect's age and even environmental factors like childhood nutrition, she adds.

The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.