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Analysis of the putative remains of a European patron saint--St. Birgitta
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Medicinsk genetik och genomik.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Ion Physics.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Medicinsk genetik och genomik.
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2010 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 5, no 2, e8986- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Saint Birgitta (Saint Bridget of Sweden) lived between 1303 and 1373 and was designated one of Europe's six patron saints by the Pope in 1999. According to legend, the skulls of St. Birgitta and her daughter Katarina are maintained in a relic shrine in Vadstena abbey, mid Sweden. The origin of the two skulls was assessed first by analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to confirm a maternal relationship. The results of this analysis displayed several differences between the two individuals, thus supporting an interpretation of the two skulls not being individuals that are maternally related. Because the efficiency of PCR amplification and quantity of DNA suggested a different amount of degradation and possibly a very different age for each of the skulls, an orthogonal procedure, radiocarbon dating, was performed. The radiocarbon dating results suggest an age difference of at least 200 years and neither of the dating results coincides with the period St. Birgitta or her daughter Katarina lived. The relic, thought to originate from St. Birgitta, has an age corresponding to the 13(th) century (1215-1270 cal AD, 2sigma confidence), which is older than expected. Thus, the two different analyses are consistent in questioning the authenticity of either of the human skulls maintained in the Vadstena relic shrine being that of St. Birgitta. Of course there are limitations when interpreting the data of any ancient biological materials and these must be considered for a final decision on the authenticity of the remains.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 5, no 2, e8986- p.
National Category
Forensic Science Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-122743DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008986ISI: 000274590500001PubMedID: 20169108OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-122743DiVA: diva2:310927
Available from: 2010-04-19 Created: 2010-04-18 Last updated: 2016-04-19
In thesis
1. Sensitive Identification Tools in Forensic DNA Analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sensitive Identification Tools in Forensic DNA Analysis
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

DNA as forensic evidence is valuable in criminal investigations. Implementation of new, sensitive and fast technologies is an important part of forensic genetic research. This thesis aims to evaluate new sensitive methods to apply in forensic DNA analysis including analysis of old skeletal remains.

In Paper I and II, two novel systems for analysis of STRs, based on the Pyrosequencing technology, are presented. In Paper I, Y chromosomal STRs are analysed. Markers on the male specific Y chromosome are especially useful in analysis of DNA mixtures. In Paper II, ten autosomal STRs are genotyped. The systems are based on sequencing of STR loci instead of size determination of STR fragments as in routine analysis. This provides a higher resolution since sequence variants within the repeats can be detected. Determination of alleles is based on a termination recognition base. This is the base in the template strand that is excluded from the dispensation order in the sequencing of the complementary strand and therefore terminates the reaction. Furthermore, skeletal remains are often difficult to analyse, due to damaging effects from the surrounding environment on the DNA and the high risk of exogenous contamination. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA is useful on degraded samples and in Paper III, mtDNA analysis of 700 years old skeletal remains is performed to investigate a maternal relationship. The quantity and quality of DNA are essential in forensic genetics. In Paper IV the efficiency of DNA isolation is investigated. Soaking skeletal remains in bleach is efficient for decontamination but result in a lower DNA yield, especially on pulverised skull samples.

In conclusion, this thesis presents novel sequencing systems for accurate and fast analysis of STR loci that can be useful in evaluation of new loci and database assembly as well as the utility of mtDNA in forensic genetics.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 49 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 606
forensic genetics, STRs, Y-chromosome, Pyrosequencing, mitochondrial DNA, skeletal remains, DNA extraction
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Research subject
Medical Genetics
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-131904 (URN)978-91-554-7915-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-11-26, Rudbecksalen, Rudbeck Laboratory, Dag Hammarskjölds väg 20, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Available from: 2010-11-04 Created: 2010-10-10 Last updated: 2011-01-13Bibliographically approved

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