Searching for Amelia Earhart's DNA

February 21, 2011

Amelia Earhart is nearly as famous today as she was in 1937, when her plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Despite the numerous rumours and theories that have emerged, her disappearance remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time. Dr. Dongya Yang hopes to shed some light on the historical case by generating the first genetic profile of the iconic aviator. Yang will use highly specialized ancient DNA techniques to recover trace amounts of DNA from cells left behind on envelope seals licked by Earhart.

Two types of DNA will be targeted: mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited maternally, and nuclear DNA, which is inherited from both parents. Any recovered mitochondrial DNA will be compared with living (maternal) relatives. If successful, nuclear DNA will then be tested. DNA from numerous envelopes will be tested to see if consistent DNA patterns can be found. By determining Earhart's genetic profile, any future claims of recovered remains belonging to the famed aviator can be easily resolved.

For more information on this project:

National Geographic "Amelia Earhart Spit Samples to Help Lick Mystery"

Photo courtesy of SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations

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