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SFU researchers to isolate Amelia Earhart's DNA

A forensic scientist at Simon Fraser University hopes to use a few samples of dried spit to help solve aviation's greatest mystery.

SFU researcher Dongya Yang aims to extract Amelia Earhart's DNA from saliva she used to seal a handful of letters prior to her famous 1937 disappearance during her attempt to fly around the world.

"It's the greatest aviation mystery of all time," said Elgen Long, an Earhart expert during an interview Monday from his home near Reno, Nevada.

"For about 30 or 40 years, practically every island and every country in the world claimed that Amelia Earhart had been there - and made headlines every time she did."

In 1971, Long, who is now in his mid-80s, was awarded the Gold Air Medal from the Federation Aeronautique International as the first person to fly solo around the world across the North and South poles.

Shortly afterward, he and his late wife Marie began an almost four-decade journey to piece together Earhart's disappearance and amassed more than 300 hours of interviews with more than 100 mechanics, radio technicians, weather experts and hotel owners.

They also collected 25,000 pieces of paper and letters and about 3,000 photographs. Together they penned the definitive work on the mystery, Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved, in 1999.

Now his grandson, Justin Long, a health sciences student at SFU, has gathered four letters for analysis by Yang. All were penned by Earhart and were sealed with her saliva.

"Really, you're harvesting from dried spit," said Justin Long. "(Yang) is looking for any epithelial cells that were left over when Amelia seals the letters."

The work is expected to take about two months, provided there are no setbacks.

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