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In 1983, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos established a system of national centers of excellence in the basic sciences. The first institutes to be created were the National Institute of Physics (NIP), the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), and the Natural Science Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman and the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMS, now the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, IMSP), the Institute of Chemistry (IC), and the Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS) at the UP’s Los Baños campus.

In this series of blog posts, I will trace the history of the UP Diliman institutes from the perspective of published research. This post in particular, highlights the most exciting research paper from these institutes in the second decade (1993-2004). I divided this post into several parts so that we will not be “sabaw”. Yeah, it is difficult to munch a lot of information in one bite. 


There is considerable jump in the number of published articles from the 3 institutes this decade. The NIP still has the most number. However, more than the numbers I think the most striking happening in this decade is that the institutes are defining their research paths.

Take for example the Natural Science Research Institute where research on genome analyses are starting to take place. During this time also, the National Institute of Geological Sciences are publishing papers that add to our understanding of the Earth though the geology of the Philippines.

In this part, I focus on the 3 papers that came from NSRI which used genome analyses for forensic problems. They add to my 30 for 30 list .

These are:


Philippine population database at nine microsatellite loci for forensic and paternity applications

Halos, SC, Chu, JY, Ferreon, ACM and Magno, MMF, Forensic Sci Int 101 27-32 (1999). DOI: 10.1016/S0379-0738(99)00008-0


Allele frequency distributions for a Filipino population from the National Capital Region (NCR) were determined for eight STR loci: HUMF13A01, HUMFES/FPS, HUMvWA, HUMFOLP23, HUMD8S306, HUMCSFIPO, HUMTPOX and HUMTHO1; and a VNTR locus: D1S80. Statistical analysis showed that the nine loci showed no deviations from Hardy-Weinberg and linkage equilibrium rules. The average power of paternity exclusion for the nine loci is 0.9962 and the discriminating power is 1-2X10(-9). The data obtained from this study will be used as reference data for forensic DNA typing in the Philippines.


Why is this paper important? The Philippines didn´t have a reference data for forensic DNA typing before this paper. DNA typing is a technique employed by forensic scientists to assist in the identification of individuals by their respective DNA profiles (wiki).

The second paper, on the other hand, tries to answer a very important question: What is the certainty that a paternity test gives the right answer when data from the mother is not available? As you can see, this study has a global impact. _________________________________________________________________

Evaluating DNA tests of motherless cases using a Philippine genetic database

De Ungria, MCA, Frani, AM, Magno, MMF, Tabbada, KA, Calacal, GC, Delfin, FC, and
Halos, SC Transfusion 42 954-957 (2002). DOI: 10.1046/j.1537-2995.2002.00152.x


In 5 percent of paternity determination cases, only DNA samples from the alleged father and child pairs are tested. The absence of the mother’s DNA increases the probability of false paternity inclusions, which affects laboratories that use a limited number of DNA markers. The effect of coincidental matches between unrelated individuals on DNA tests of motherless cases was determined using the Philippine population genetic database of the National Capital Region (NCR).


The last paper that does genome analysis is:


Identification of two fire victims by comparative nuclear DNA typing of skeletal remains and stored umbilical tissues

Calacal, GC, De Ungria, MCA, Delfin, FC, Lara, MC, Magtanong, DL and Fortun, RD, Am J Foren Med Path 24 148-152 (2002). DOI:10.1097/01.paf.0000067760.89286.a0


We describe here our collaborative efforts in identifying 2 fatalities of a fire disaster by using a variety of identification techniques. Postmortem findings in both cases were reinforced using Short Tandem Repeat (STR) DNA technology to establish with a high degree of certainty the identities of 2 child victims. STR markers used in the present study include HUMAMEL, HUMCSFIPO, HUMTHO1, HUMvWA, HUMFES/FPS, HUMF13A01, HUMFOLP23, D8S3O6, HUMFGA, and HUMTPOX. Unambiguous identification was made possible through matching DNA profiles generated from skeletal remains with those from umbilical tissues. These tissues were kept by their mothers in accordance with a Philippine tradition and were submitted for DNA analysis. Of the DNA profiles generated from exhumed bone samples of 21 child victims, comparison with the genetic profiles of children A and B obtained from umbilical tissues showed consistent DNA matches with remains 1756 and 1758, respectively.


The thing that is curious in this paper is the use of the umbilical tissues in identifying the children.  Who would have known that a tradition regarded as “archaic” is important in the age of DNA analysis?

If you notice, some of the authors in the papers above are still very active in research. They are now at the forefront of research on human history specifically on the Filipino origin (click here, here and here).

Looking at these papers and the papers that the authors do now, you couldn´t help but wonder the dedication and hardwork these people put into their research – starting from scratch in the 1990´s and building a research laboratory in the Philippines that is now highly regarded by scientists around the world.


In the next part of this series, I will write the 4 papers from the NIGS that I included from this decade.