Unknown Child on the Titanic – Part III

By |2010-08-19T01:05:26-07:00August 19th, 2010|

To understand what happened next, you have to know a little about mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).  Mitochondrial DNA is contained in small, football-shaped inclusions outside the nucleus of a cell. It's widely believed that mitochondria were once independent bacteria that invaded primitive cells millions of years ago.  Instead of being digested, these bacteria took up residence in the cell, forming a symbiotic relationship with it.  The cell provided them with food and water, and the mitochondria provided the cell with energy for metabolism and heat.  The arrangement worked out so well that millennia later, a human cell has up to 1,000 mitochondria, each carrying five to ten copies of its own genome.     [...]

Unknown Child on the Titanic – Part II

By |2010-08-17T18:48:48-07:00August 17th, 2010|

After eight and a half decades, there was little left of the child's body. Only a small piece of wrist bone and the crowns of three tiny baby teeth had survived the inclement weather and damp, slightly acidic soil. In the spring of 2002, when Parr and Ruffman determined that the child was not Gosta Paulson based on a mismatch between the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) obtained from the bone shard and DNA provided by a maternally-linked Paulson relative, the teeth became more significant in the identification efforts.  Dr. E. J. Molto, an anthropologist and the director of the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University, suggested that the three teeth belonged to "quite a young child".  [...]

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