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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, November 2003

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FORENSICS -- Microbial detectives . . .

Bacteria from a decaying body can potentially tell investigators something about how long a person has been dead, and it's the focus of new research by Arpad Vass of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Vass and colleagues are looking at the microbial population, which changes over time and creates a virtual script accented by peaks of activity. Each peak represents a different group of organisms, and, from that data, researchers can calculate how long a person has been dead. "What we'll have is the overall picture and a methodology for the entire decomposition process," Vass said. While there are other fairly effective approaches to determine time since death, this technique has an advantage because the microbes come directly from the body, and, short of embalming or cremation, no one can get rid of this particular "evidence." The project is funded by the Law Enforcement Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

GENETICS -- New mice, new opportunities . . .

A mouse population that once totaled more than 200,000 is down to zero at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but it's all part of the plan. Beginning in the next few weeks and continuing for several years, the mouse colony will be rederived from stocks of embryos frozen in special freezers chilled by liquid nitrogen. The stock consists of more than 900 strains, some dating back to the 1940s. Strains for which there is funding about 300 -- will be brought back to life. The new mice will be housed in ORNL's brand new 30,000-square-foot pathogen-free Russell Laboratory for Comparative and Functional Genomics. Because the facility is sterile, ORNL will now be able to exchange its specially muta
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Contact: Ron Walli
wallira@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
3-Nov-2003


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