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Is DNA Harvesting, Reproduction The Wave Of The Future?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The idea of reproducing a living being from DNA is the stuff Jurassic Park and Dolly the Sheep are made of. But is it really possible to reproduce someone from DNA?

"You can create individuals by transferring someone's DNA into an egg and actually fertilizing it," says Dr. Aleksandar Rajkovic at the Magee Women's Research Institute Reproductive Genetics Department.

Which brings us to the question Andrew Weckman faced when his dad died last fall. Would you like a sample of his DNA harvested?

Waxman says, "I wasn't too sure about it."

Perman Funeral Home owner Frank Perman is the first funeral home director in Western Pennsylvania to offer the DNA program in conjunction with a Toronto company that does the processing.

His families tell him, "They want it for the genealogy; they want to know what is in their medical history and the DNA has it."

Dr. Rajkovic says, "I can see some uses. One use could be if there is a mysterious illness and no one knows what's causing it. DNA might reveal some answers."

And he went on to point out harvesting the DNA is "banking on future discoveries that will give more meaning to all these letters and give more meaning to the family, not just rare diseases, but simple diseases. Why should I get a heart attack at 55 instead of 85 and so on."

Which is exactly why Andrew gave the approval to harvest his dad's DNA. In part because his dad was adopted and there's no known family medical history before him.

With the DNA, Andrew says if a question comes up, he can have the sample processed and "from those results I would take heed of what they say because it could be warnings of what could happen to me."

The process of taking the sample involves swabbing the inside of the person's mouth, or pulling 20 hairs, including the follicle.

The sample is then sealed and sent to the Toronto company, and within a couple of weeks, a small vial arrives with the DNA attached to an inert material that looks like salt. The cost is $295.

Perman joined the KDKA Morning News to discuss the DNA harvesting process.

He says that the process starts with taking either a mouth swab or taking hair follicles and sending it to a lab in Ontario. They extract the DNA at their facility. Once it's extracted, it is sent in a vile to the owner. The process costs $295.

"The DNA in that vile can be tested over and over again, which is really nice, because as they learn more about DNA, [they can] test it again and again," Perman said.

This DNA harvesting is not just something to plan for when you die. Perman sys it is something you can do right now.
With preserving the DNA, it is relatively new to the country with Canada patenting this process, and many people are unaware of this, but Perman says it is starting to "take off."

Dr. Rajkovic says if you choose to save the DNA material also try to hold onto as many of the person's medical records as possible because he says, "DNA without medical information is not as useful."

Andrew says he's as much enamored with the science as with the revealing possibilities, "I'm not sure how far science can go with this, but hopefully we'll see how this goes, and as time goes on, the advancement might disclose more information."

Dr. Rajkovic agrees, "There is truth to that I think our technologies keep improving."

But those technologies are only effective if you've maintained a piece of the past.

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