Putting It Together: Modern Biology


In this competency you learned about these topics:

  • Common techniques used in biological laboratories for basic and applied research
  • How these techniques may be used by society
  • Risks and benefits associated with applying modern biology


DNA and biotechnology can be used for numerous applications in society. Let’s return to our starting scenario.

First Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, 24, was shot down over South Vietnam in 1972 and presumed dead. When family members received word that his remains might be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown, they petitioned the Department of Defense to open the site and conduct previously unavailable DNA testing. In 1998 the Tomb of the Unknown was opened and the remains of the Vietnam Unknown—identified as X-26—were removed.

Forensic anthropologists took the aged and damaged samples of bone for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing. Because mtDNA is passed along the maternal line, scientists compared the Unknown Soldier’s DNA against two samples submitted by First Lieutenant Blassie’s mother and sister and found a match.

On July 11, 1998, 1st Lt. Michael Blassie was buried with full military honors in Jefferson National Cemetery, Missouri, near his hometown, in the same cemetery as his father.