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Thunder Bay to become Canada's mitochondrial DNA hotspot

Published by Steve Coleman on March 05, 2012

A Thunder Bay, Ont. company has turned DNA into the building block for its business plan.

Lakehead University and Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories announced March 5 that they're joining forces to build a mitochondrial DNA database to help law enforcement agencies identify evidence too far gone for traditional nuclear DNA testing.

The federal government plans to contribute $338,050 towards the $1.3 million price tag to create MitoNorth. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is used in cases where police find shed hairs at crime scenes that don't have a root attached or to identify human remains where there isn't enough nuclear DNA to get a positive match.

The federal funding will split between Lakehead University's Paleo DNA Laboratory and the Warnex PRO-DNA Services laboratory. Both are located in Thunder Bay and are the only two Canadian-based locations where police can go for mtDNA services.

"We are very pleased to obtain this funding, which will enable us to expand the use of our mtDNA testing services to benefit forensic investigators, law enforcement agencies and the legal community," said Dr. Yvan P. Côté, general manager of Warnex PRO-DNA Services, in a news release. "This new database will significantly improve the use of mtDNA for law enforcement around the world, helping to incarcerate guilty parties or add credibility to the acquittal of innocent individuals. We look forward to working with our partners at Lakehead University to lead the creation of a Canadian mtDNA centre of excellence in Thunder Bay."

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