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DNA fingerprinting in forensics: past, present, future

Lutz roewer.

1 Department of Forensic Genetics, Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

DNA fingerprinting, one of the great discoveries of the late 20th century, has revolutionized forensic investigations. This review briefly recapitulates 30 years of progress in forensic DNA analysis which helps to convict criminals, exonerate the wrongly accused, and identify victims of crime, disasters, and war. Current standard methods based on short tandem repeats (STRs) as well as lineage markers (Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA) are covered and applications are illustrated by casework examples. Benefits and risks of expanding forensic DNA databases are discussed and we ask what the future holds for forensic DNA fingerprinting.

The past - a new method that changed the forensic world

'“I’ve found it! I’ve found it”, he shouted, running towards us with a test-tube in his hand. “I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by hemoglobin, and by nothing else”,’ says Sherlock Holmes to Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s first novel A study in Scarlet from1886 and later: 'Now we have the Sherlock Holmes’ test, and there will no longer be any difficulty […]. Had this test been invented, there are hundreds of men now walking the earth who would long ago have paid the penalty of their crimes’ [ 1 ].

The Eureka shout shook England again and was heard around the world when roughly 100 years later Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester, in UK, found extraordinarily variable and heritable patterns from repetitive DNA analyzed with multi-locus probes. Not being Holmes he refrained to call the method after himself but 'DNA fingerprinting’ [ 2 ]. Under this name his invention opened up a new area of science. The technique proved applicable in many biological disciplines, namely in diversity and conservation studies among species, and in clinical and anthropological studies. But the true political and social dimension of genetic fingerprinting became apparent far beyond academic circles when the first applications in civil and criminal cases were published. Forensic genetic fingerprinting can be defined as the comparison of the DNA in a person’s nucleated cells with that identified in biological matter found at the scene of a crime or with the DNA of another person for the purpose of identification or exclusion. The application of these techniques introduces new factual evidence to criminal investigations and court cases. However, the first case (March 1985) was not strictly a forensic case but one of immigration [ 3 ]. The first application of DNA fingerprinting saved a young boy from deportation and the method thus captured the public’s sympathy. In Alec Jeffreys’ words: 'If our first case had been forensic I believe it would have been challenged and the process may well have been damaged in the courts’ [ 4 ]. The forensic implications of genetic fingerprinting were nevertheless obvious, and improvements of the laboratory process led already in 1987 to the very first application in a forensic case. Two teenage girls had been raped and murdered on different occasions in nearby English villages, one in 1983, and the other in 1986. Semen was obtained from each of the two crime scenes. The case was spectacular because it surprisingly excluded a suspected man, Richard Buckland, and matched another man, Colin Pitchfork, who attempted to evade the DNA dragnet by persuading a friend to give a sample on his behalf. Pitchfork confessed to committing the crimes after he was confronted with the evidence that his DNA profile matched the trace DNA from the two crime scenes. For 2 years the Lister Institute of Leicester where Jeffreys was employed was the only laboratory in the world doing this work. But it was around 1987 when companies such as Cellmark, the academic medico-legal institutions around the world, the national police, law enforcement agencies, and so on started to evaluate, improve upon, and employ the new tool. The years after the discovery of DNA fingerprinting were characterized by a mood of cooperation and interdisciplinary research. None of the many young researchers who has been there will ever forget the DNA fingerprint congresses which were held on five continents, in Bern (1990), in Belo Horizonte (1992), in Hyderabad (1994), in Melbourne (1996), and in Pt. Elizabeth (1999), and then shut down with the good feeling that the job was done. Everyone read the Fingerprint News distributed for free by the University of Cambridge since 1989 (Figure  1 ). This affectionate little periodical published non-stylish short articles directly from the bench without impact factors and resumed networking activities in the different fields of applications. The period in the 1990s was the golden research age of DNA fingerprinting succeeded by two decades of engineering, implementation, and high-throughput application. From the Foreword of Alec Jeffreys in Fingerprint News , Issue 1, January 1989: 'Dear Colleagues, […] I hope that Fingerprint News will cover all aspects of hypervariable DNA and its application, including both multi-locus and single-locus systems, new methods for studying DNA polymorphisms, the population genetics of variable loci and the statistical analysis of fingerprint data, as well as providing useful technical tips for getting good DNA profiles […]. May your bands be variable’ [ 5 ].

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Cover of one of the first issues of Fingerprint News from 1990.

Jeffreys’ original technology, now obsolete for forensic use, underwent important developments in terms of the basic methodology, that is, from Southern blot to PCR, from radioactive to fluorescent labels, from slab gels to capillary electrophoresis. As the technique became more sensitive, the handling simple and automated and the statistical treatment straightforward, DNA profiling, as the method was renamed, entered the forensic routine laboratories around the world in storm. But, what counts in the Pitchfork case and what still counts today is the process to get DNA identification results accepted in legal proceedings. Spectacular fallacies, from the historical 1989 case of People vs. Castro in New York [ 6 ] to the case against Knox and Sollecito in Italy (2007–2013) where literally DNA fingerprinting was on trial [ 7 ], disclosed severe insufficiencies in the technical protocols and especially in the DNA evidence interpretation and raised nolens volens doubts on the scientific and evidentiary value of forensic DNA fingerprinting. These cases are rare but frequent enough to remind each new generation of forensic analysts, researchers, or private sector employees that DNA evidence is nowadays an important part of factual evidence and needs thus intense scrutiny for all parts of the DNA analysis and interpretation process.

In the following I will briefly describe the development of DNA fingerprinting to a standardized investigative method for court use which has since 1984 led to the conviction of thousands of criminals and to the exoneration of many wrongfully suspected or convicted individuals [ 8 ]. Genetic fingerprinting per se could of course not reduce the criminal rate in any of the many countries in the world, which employ this method. But DNA profiling adds hard scientific value to the evidence and strengthens thus (principally) the credibility of the legal system.

The technological evolution of forensic DNA profiling

In the classical DNA fingerprinting method radio-labeled DNA probes containing minisatellite [ 9 ] or oligonucleotide sequences [ 10 ] are hybridized to DNA that has been digested with a restriction enzyme, separated by agarose electrophoresis and immobilized on a membrane by Southern blotting or - in the case of the oligonucleotide probes - immobilized directly in the dried gel. The radio-labeled probe hybridizes to a set of minisatellites or oligonucleotide stretches in genomic DNA contained in restriction fragments whose size differ because of variation in the numbers of repeat units. After washing away excess probe the exposure to X-ray film (autoradiography) allows these variable fragments to be visualized, and their profiles compared between individuals. Minisatellite probes, called 33.6 and 33.15, were most widely used in the UK, most parts of Europe and the USA, whereas pentameric (CAC)/(GTG) 5 probes were predominantly applied in Germany. These so-called multilocus probes (MLP) detect sets of 15 to 20 variable fragments per individual ranging from 3.5 to 20 kb in size (Figure  2 ). But the multi-locus profiling method had several limitations despite its successful application to crime and kinship cases until the middle of the 1990s. Running conditions or DNA quality issues render the exact matching between bands often difficult. To overcome this, forensic laboratories adhered to binning approaches [ 11 ], where fixed or floating bins were defined relative to the observed DNA fragment size, and adjusted to the resolving power of the detection system. Second, fragment association within one DNA fingerprint profile is not known, leading to statistical errors due to possible linkage between loci. Third, for obtaining optimal profiles the method required substantial amounts of high molecular weight DNA [ 12 ] and thus excludes the majority of crime-scene samples from the analysis. To overcome some of these limitations, single-locus profiling was developed [ 13 ]. Here a single hypervariable locus is detected by a specific single-locus probe (SLP) using high stringency hybridization. Typically, four SLPs were used in a reprobing approach, yielding eight alleles of four independent loci per individual. This method requires only 10 ng of genomic DNA [ 14 ] and has been validated through extensive experiments and forensic casework, and for many years provided a robust and valuable system for individual identification. Nevertheless, all these different restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP)-based methods were still limited by the available quality and quantity of the DNA and also hampered by difficulties to reliably compare genetic profiles from different sources, labs, and techniques. What was needed was a DNA code, which could ideally be generated even from a single nucleated cell and from highly degraded DNA, a code, which could be rapidly generated, numerically encrypted, automatically compared, and easily supported in court. Indeed, starting in the early 1990s DNA fingerprinting methods based on RFLP analysis were gradually supplanted by methods based on PCR because of the improved sensitivity, speed, and genotyping precision [ 15 ]. Microsatellites, in the forensic community usually referred to short tandem repeats (STRs), were found to be ideally suited for forensic applications. STR typing is more sensitive than single-locus RFLP methods, less prone to allelic dropout than VNTR (variable number of tandem repeat) systems [ 16 ], and more discriminating than other PCR-based typing methods, such as HLA-DQA1 [ 17 ]. More than 2,000 publications now detail the technology, hundreds of different population groups have been studied, new technologies as, for example, the miniSTRs [ 18 ] have been developed and standard protocols have been validated in laboratories worldwide (for an overview see [ 19 ]). Forensic DNA profiling is currently performed using a panel of multi-allelic STR markers which are structurally analogous to the original minisatellites but with much shorter repeat tracts and thus easier to amplify and multiplex with PCR. Up to 30 STRs can be detected in a single capillary electrophoresis injection generating for each individual a unique genetic code. Basically there are two sets of STR markers complying with the standards requested by criminal databases around the world: the European standard set of 12 STR markers [ 20 ] and the US CODIS standard of 13 markers [ 21 ]. Due to partial overlap, they form together a standard of 18 STR markers in total. The incorporation of these STR markers into commercial kits has improved the application of these markers for all kinds of DNA evidence with reproducible results from as less than three nucleated cells [ 22 ] and extracted even from severely compromised material. The probability that two individuals will have identical markers at each of 13 different STR loci within their DNA exceeds one out of a billion. If a DNA match occurs between an accused individual and a crime scene stain, the correct courtroom expression would be that the probability of a match if the crime-scene sample came from someone other than the suspect (considering the random, not closely-related man) is at most one in a billion [ 14 ]. The uniqueness of each person’s DNA (with the exception of monozygotic twins) and its simple numerical codification led to the establishment of government-controlled criminal investigation DNA databases in the developed nations around the world, the first in 1995 in the UK [ 23 ]. When a match is made from such a DNA database to link a crime scene sample to an offender who has provided a DNA sample to a database that link is often referred to as a cold hit. A cold hit is of value as an investigative lead for the police agency to a specific suspect. China (approximately 16 million profiles, the United States (approximately 10 million profiles), and the UK (approximately 6 million profiles) maintain the largest DNA database in the world. The percentage of databased persons is on the increase in all countries with a national DNA database, but the proportions are not the same by the far: whereas in the UK about 10% of the population is in the national DNA database, the percentage in Germany and the Netherlands is only about 0.9% and 0.8%, respectively [ 24 ].

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Multilocus DNA Fingerprint from a large family probed with the oligonucleotide (GTG) 5 ( Courtesy of Peter Nürnberg, Cologne Center for Genomics, Germany ).

Lineage markers in forensic analysis

Lineage markers have special applications in forensic genetics. Y chromosome analysis is very helpful in cases where there is an excess of DNA from a female victim and only a low proportion from a male perpetrator. Typical examples include sexual assault without ejaculation, sexual assault by a vasectomized male, male DNA under the fingernails of a victim, male 'touch’ DNA on the skin, and the clothing or belongings of a female victim. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is of importance for the analyses of low level nuclear DNA samples, namely from unidentified (typically skeletonized) remains, hair shafts without roots, or very old specimens where only heavily degraded DNA is available [ 25 ]. The unusual non-recombinant mode of inheritance of Y and mtDNA weakens the statistical weight of a match between individual samples but makes the method efficient for the reconstruction of the paternal or maternal relationship, for example in mass disaster investigations [ 26 ] or in historical reconstructions. A classic case is the identification of two missing children of the Romanov family, the last Russian monarchy. MtDNA analysis combined with additional DNA testing of material from the mass grave near Yekaterinburg gave virtually irrefutable evidence that the two individuals recovered from a second grave nearby are the two missing children of the Romanov family: the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters [ 27 ]. Interestingly, a point heteroplasmy, that is, the presence of two slightly different mtDNA haplotypes within an individual, was found in the mtDNA of the Tsar and his relatives, which was in 1991 a contentious finding (Figure  3 ). In the early 1990s when the bones were first analyzed, a point heteroplasmy was believed to be an extremely rare phenomenon and was not readily explainable. Today, the existence of heteroplasmy is understood to be relatively common and large population databases can be searched for its frequency at certain positions. The mtDNA evidence in the Romanov case was underpinned by Y-STR analysis where a 17-locus haplotype from the remains of Tsar Nicholas II matched exactly to the femur of the putative Tsarevich and also to a living Romanov relative. Other studies demonstrated that very distant family branches can be traced back to common ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago [ 28 ]. Currently forensic Y chromosome typing has gained wide acceptance with the introduction of highly sensitive panels of up to 27 STRs including rapidly mutating markers [ 29 ]. Figure  4 demonstrates the impressive gain of the discriminative power with increasing numbers of Y-STRs. The determination of the match probability between Y-STR or mtDNA profiles via the mostly applied counting method [ 30 ] requires large, representative, and quality-assessed databases of haplotypes sampled in appropriate reference populations, because the multiplication of individual allele frequencies is not valid as for independently inherited autosomal STRs [ 31 ]. Other estimators for the haplotype match probability than the count estimator have been proposed and evaluated using empirical data [ 32 ], however, the biostatistical interpretation remains complicated and controversial and research continues. The largest forensic Y chromosome haplotype database is the YHRD ( http://www.yhrd.org ) hosted at the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in Berlin, Germany, with about 115,000 haplotypes sampled in 850 populations [ 33 ]. The largest forensic mtDNA database is EMPOP ( http://www.empop.org ) hosted at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria, with about 33,000 haplotypes sampled in 63 countries [ 34 ]. More than 235 institutes have actually submitted data to the YHRD and 105 to EMPOP, a compelling demonstration of the level of networking activities between forensic science institutes around the world. That additional intelligence information is potentially derivable from such large datasets becomes obvious when a target DNA profile is searched against a collection of geographically annotated Y chromosomal or mtDNA profiles. Because linearly inherited markers have a highly non-random geographical distribution the target profile shares characteristic variants with geographical neighbors due to common ancestry [ 35 ]. This link between genetics, genealogy, and geography could provide investigative leads for investigators in non-suspect cases as illustrated in the following case [ 36 ]:

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Screenshot of the 16169 C/T heteroplasmy present in Tsar Nicholas II using both forward and reverse sequencing primers ( Courtesy of Michael Coble, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, USA ).

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Correlation between the number of analyzed Y-STRs and the number of different haplotypes detected in a global population sample of 18,863 23-locus haplotypes.

In 2002, a woman was found with a smashed skull and covered in blood but still alive in her Berlin apartment. Her life was saved by intensive medical care. Later she told the police that she had let a man into her apartment, and he had immediately attacked her. The man was subletting the apartment next door. The evidence collected at the scene and in the neighboring apartment included a baseball cap, two towels, and a glass. The evidence was sent to the state police laboratory in Berlin, Germany and was analyzed with conventional autosomal STR profiling. Stains on the baseball cap and on one towel revealed a pattern consistent with that of the tenant, whereas two different male DNA profiles were found on a second bath towel and on the glass. The tenant was eliminated as a suspect because he was absent at the time of the offense, but two unknown men (different in autosomal but identical in Y-STRs) who shared the apartment were suspected. Unfortunately, the apartment had been used by many individuals of both European and African nationalities, so the initial search for the two men became very difficult. The police obtained a court order for Y-STR haplotyping to gain information about the unknown men’s population affiliation. Prerequisites for such biogeographic analyses are large reference databases containing Y-STR haplotypes also typed for ancestry informative single nucleotide markers (SNP) markers from hundreds of different populations. The YHRD proved useful to infer the population origin of the unknown man. The database inquiry indicated a patrilineage of Southern European ancestry, whereas an African descent was unlikely (Figure  5 ). The police were able to track down the tenant in Italy, and with his help, establish the identity of one of the unknown men, who was also Italian. When questioning this man, the police used the information retrieved from Y-STR profiling that he had shared the apartment in Berlin with a paternal relative. This relative was identified as his nephew. Because of the close-knit relationship within the family, this information would probably not have been easily retrieved from the uncle without the prior knowledge. The nephew was suspected of the attempted murder in Berlin. He was later arrested in Italy, where he had committed another violent robbery.

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Screenshot from the YHRD depicting the radiation of a 9-locus haplotype belonging to haplogroup J in Southern Europe.

Information on the biogeographic origin of an unknown DNA could also be retrieved from a number of ancestry informative SNPs (AISNPs) on autosomes or insertion/deletion polymorphisms [ 37 , 38 ] but perhaps even better from so-called mini-haplotypes with only <10 SNPs spanning small molecular intervals (<10 kb) with very low recombination among sites [ 39 ]. Each 'minihap’ behaves like a locus with multiple haplotype lineages (alleles) that have evolved from the ancestral human haplotype. All copies of each distinct haplotype are essentially identical by descent. Thus, they fall like Y and mtDNA into the lineage-informative category of genetic markers and are thus useful for connecting an individual to a family or ancestral genetic pool.

Benefits and risks of forensic DNA databases

The steady growth in the size of forensic DNA databases raises issues on the criteria of inclusion and retention and doubts on the efficiency, commensurability, and infringement of privacy of such large personal data collections. In contrast to the past, not only serious but all crimes are subject to DNA analysis generating millions and millions of DNA profiles, many of which are stored and continuously searched in national DNA databases. And as always when big datasets are gathered new mining procedures based on correlation became feasible. For example, 'Familial DNA Database Searching’ is based on near matches between a crime stain and a databased person, which could be a near relative of the true perpetrator [ 40 ]. Again the first successful familial search was conducted in UK in 2004 and led to the conviction of Craig Harman of manslaughter. Craig Harman was convicted because of partial matches from Harman’s brother. The strategy was subsequently applied in some US states but is not conducted at the national level. It was during a dragnet that it first became public knowledge that the German police were also already involved in familial search strategies. In a little town in Northern Germany the police arrested a young man accused of rape because they had analyzed the DNA of his two brothers who had participated in the dragnet. Because of partial matches between crime scene DNA profiles and these brothers they had identified the suspect. In contrast to other countries, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany decided in December 2012 against the future court use of this kind of evidence.

Civil rights and liberties are crucial for democratic societies and plans to extend forensic DNA databases to whole populations need to be condemned. Alec Jeffreys early on has questioned the way UK police collects DNA profiles, holding not only convicted individuals but also arrestees without conviction, suspects cleared in an investigation, or even innocent people never charged with an offence [ 41 ]. He also criticized that large national databases as the NDNAD of England and Wales are likely skewed socioeconomically. It has been pointed out that most of the matches refer to minor offences; according to GeneWatch in Germany 63% of the database matches provided are related to theft while <3% related to rape and murder. The changes to the UK database came in the 2012’s Protection of Freedoms bill, following a major defeat at the European Court of Human Rights in 2008. As of May 2013 1.1 million profiles (of about 7 million) had been destroyed to remove innocent people’s profiles from the database. In 2005 the incoming government of Portugal proposed a DNA database containing samples from every Portuguese citizen. Following public objections, the government limited the database to criminals. A recent study on the public views on DNA database-related matters showed that a more critical attitude towards wider national databases is correlated with the age and education of the respondents [ 42 ]. A deeper public awareness on the benefits and risks of very large DNA collections need to be built and common ethical and privacy standards for the development and governance of DNA databases need to be adopted where the citizen’s perspectives are taken into consideration.

The future of forensic DNA analysis

The forensic community, as it always has, is facing the question in which direction the DNA Fingerprint technology will be developed. A growing number of colleagues are convinced that DNA sequencing will soon replace methods based on fragment length analysis and there are good arguments for this position. With the emergence of current Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, the body of forensically useful data can potentially be expanded and analyzed quickly and cost-efficiently. Given the enormous number of potentially informative DNA loci - which of those should be sequenced? In my opinion there are four types of polymorphisms which deserve a place on the analytic device: an array of 20–30 autosomal STRs which complies with the standard sets used in the national and international databases around the world, a highly discriminating set of Y chromosomal markers, individual and signature polymorphisms in the control and coding region of the mitochondrial genome [ 43 ], as well as ancestry and phenotype inference SNPs [ 44 ]. Indeed, a promising NGS approach with the simultaneous analysis of 10 STRs, 386 autosomal ancestry and phenotype informative SNPs, and the complete mtDNA genome has been presented recently [ 45 ] (Figure  6 ). Currently, the rather high error rates are preventing NGS technologies from being used in forensic routine [ 46 ], but it is foreseeable that the technology will be improved in terms of accuracy and reliability. Time is another essential factor in police investigations which will be considerably reduced in future applications of DNA profiling. Commercial instruments capable of producing a database-compatible DNA profile within 2 hours exist [ 47 ] and are currently under validation for law enforcement use. The hands-free 'swab in - profile out’ process consists of automated extraction, amplification, separation, detection, and allele calling without human intervention. In the US the promise of on-site DNA analysis has already altered the way in which DNA could be collected in future. In a recent decision the Supreme court of the United States held that 'when officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure’ (Maryland v. Alonzo Jay King, Jr.). In other words, DNA can be taken from any arrestee, rightly or wrongly arrested, as a part of the normal booking procedure. Twenty-eight states and the federal government now take DNA swabs after arrests with the aim of comparing profiles to the CODIS database, creating links to unsolved cases and to identify the person (Associated Press, 3 June 2013). Driven by the rapid technological progress DNA actually becomes another metric of quick identification. It remains to be seen whether rapid DNA technologies will alter the way in which DNA is collected by police in other countries. In Germany for example the DNA collection is still regulated by the code of the criminal procedure and the use of DNA profiling for identification purposes only is excluded. Because national legislations are basically so different, a worldwide system to interrogate DNA profiles from criminal justice databases seems currently a very distant project.

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Schematic overview of Haloplex targeting and NGS analysis of a large number of markers simultaneously. Sequence data are shown for samples from two individuals and the D3S1358 STR marker, the rs1335873 SNP marker, and a part of the HVII region of mtDNA ( Courtesy of Marie Allen, Uppsala University, Sweden ).

At present the forensic DNA technology directly affects the lives of millions people worldwide. The general acceptance of this technique is still high, reports on the DNA identification of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks [ 48 ], of natural disasters as the Hurricane Katrina [ 49 ], and of recent wars (for example, in former Yugoslavia [ 50 ]) and dictatorship (for example, in Argentina [ 51 ]) impress the public in the same way as police investigators in white suits securing DNA evidence at a broken door. CSI watchers know, and even professionals believe, that DNA will inevitably solve the case just following the motto Do Not Ask, it’s DNA, stupid! But the affirmative view changes and critical questions are raised. It should not be assumed that the benefits of forensic DNA fingerprinting will necessarily override the social and ethical costs [ 52 ].

This short article leaves many of such questions unanswered. Alfred Nobel used his fortune to institute a prize for work 'in ideal direction’. What would be the ideal direction in which DNA fingerprinting, one of the great discoveries in recent history, should be developed?

Competing interests

The author declares that he has no competing interests.

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DNA Fingerprinting

Definition of dna fingerprinting.

"DNA fingerprinting is a procedure that shows the hereditary cosmetics of living things. It is a strategy for finding the distinction between the satellite DNA areas in the genome."

DNA profiling, DNA testing, DNA examination, Genetic profile, DNA distinguishing proof, genetic fingerprinting, and genetic investigation are a portion of the mainstream names utilized for DNA fingerprinting. This technique was invented by Alec Jeffreys in 1984.

Principle of DNA fingerprinting  

The human genome consists of innumerable small noncoding sequences which are inheritable and repeatedly present. They can be separated from the bulk DNA as satellite upon performing density gradient centrifugation and thus known as satellite DNA. They can be categorized into either microsatellites or microsatellites depending on the length, base composition and tandemly repetitive units. These satellite DNAs show polymorphism and this polymorphism is the basis of DNA fingerprinting. The repeat regions can be divided into two groups based on the size of the repeat - variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs) and short tandem repeats. These repeats act as genetic markers and every individual inherits these repeats from their parents. Thus, every individual has a particular composition of VNTRs and this is the main principle of the DNA fingerprinting technique.

DNA Fingerprinting Steps

Collection of organic example blood, spit, buccal swab, semen, or solid tissue. 

DNA extraction.

Restriction absorption or PCR intensification. 

Agarose gel electrophoresis , slim electrophoresis or DNA sequencing. 

Interpreting outcomes.

The Process of DNA Fingerprinting

Sample collection, DNA extraction, absorption or intensification and investigation results are significant advances.

Stage 1: Sample Collection  

DNA can be acquired from any bodily sample or liquid. Buccal smear, salivation, blood, amniotic liquid, chorionic villi, skin, hair, body liquid, and different tissues are significant kinds of samples utilized. 

Stage 2: DNA Extraction 

We need to initially get DNA. To play out any genetic applications, DNA extraction is one of the most significant advances. Great quality and amount of DNA expands the conceivable outcomes of getting better outcomes.

You can utilize DNA extraction strategies enrolled beneath, 

Phenol-chloroform DNA extraction strategy 

CTAB DNA extraction strategy 

Proteinase K DNA extraction strategy

In any case, we emphatically prescribe utilizing a ready to go DNA extraction unit for DNA fingerprinting. 

The immaculateness and amount of DNA ought to be ~1.80 and 100ng, individually to play out the DNA test. Filter the DNA utilizing the DNA sanitization unit, if necessary. 

From that point onward, measure the DNA utilizing the UV-Visible spectrophotometer. Furthermore, perform one of the accompanying strategies recorded underneath.

DNA Fingerprinting Strategies

Stage 3: Restriction Absorption, Enhancement or DNA Sequencing 

Three regular strategies are utilized: 

RFLP based STR investigation 

PCR based investigation 

Real-time PCR investigation

Stage 4: Analysis of Results  

As we examined, utilizing the southern blotting, agarose gel electrophoresis, narrow electrophoresis, ongoing intensification, and DNA sequencing, the outcomes for different DNA profiling can be gotten in which rt-PCR and sequencing are much of the use in forensic science.  

Stage 5: Interpreting Results 

By looking at DNA profiles of different examples, varieties and likenesses between people can be distinguished. Outstandingly, the whole procedure is presently nearly automatic. We don't need to do anything, the computer gives us conclusive outcomes.

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Applications of DNA Fingerprinting

Utilizing the DNA fingerprinting strategy, the natural personality of an individual can be uncovered. For approving one's character, there is no other preferable alternative over DNA fingerprinting. 

Gravely harmed dead bodies can be distinguished. 

It is utilized to detect maternal cell contamination. 

One of the significant downsides of pre-birth determination is maternal cell tainting. The amniotic liquid or CVS test contains the maternal DNA or maternal tissue, once in a while. Contamination expands the opportunity of false-positive outcomes, particularly on account of carrier recognition. Utilizing VNTRs and STRs markers with PCR-gel electrophoresis, maternal cell tainting can be recognized during pregnancy hereditary testing. 

One of the most significant uses of the current strategy is in the crime scene examination and criminal check. The example is gathered from the crime site which could be salivation, blood, hair follicle, or semen. DNA is removed and investigated against the suspect, utilizing the two markers we clarified previously. By coordinating DNA band designs criminal's connected to wrongdoing can be built up.

Utilizing Blood-Typing in Paternity Tests 

The procedure of DNA fingerprinting was discovered by Alec Jeffreys in 1984, and it originally opened up for paternity testing in 1988. Before this kind of DNA investigation was accessible, blood classifications were the most widely recognized calculation considered human paternity testing. Blood bunches are a mainstream case of Mendelian hereditary qualities at work. All things considered, there are various human blood bunches with numerous alleles, and these alleles display a scope of predominance designs.

DNA Fingerprinting and Farming

A few DNA minisatellite tests have yielded piece profiles that show up valuable for plant reproducing work. These part profiles show no variety when vegetative spread material is broken down. So also, examples obtained through self-inbreeding species show indistinguishable profiles. Interestingly, hereditary recombination in cross-pollinating species brings about exceptionally factor, normally singular, explicit piece profiles. Along these lines various cultivars can be recognized, as additionally can genotypes of wild species in characteristic populaces. These piece profiles can likewise be used in parentage examination, as has just been led in rice and apples, in this way empowering us to explain the source of deficiently recorded cultivars. Also, evaluations of hereditary variety dependent on similitude lists determined from section profiles show a nearby relationship with known degrees of hereditary relatedness.

FAQs on DNA Fingerprinting

1. What is the Innovative Advancement of DNA Profiling and Forensics?

In the old-style DNA fingerprinting strategy radio-named DNA tests containing minisatellite or oligonucleotide arrangements are hybridized to DNA that has been processed with a limitation catalyst, isolated by agarose electrophoresis and immobilized on a layer by Southern blotting or - on account of the oligonucleotide tests - immobilized legitimately in the dried gel. The radio-marked test hybridizes to a lot of minisatellites or oligonucleotide extends in genomic DNA contained in limitation pieces whose size vary as a result of variety in the quantities of rehash units. In the wake of washing endlessly, the presentation to X-beam film (autoradiography) permits these variable sections to be imagined, and their profiles analyzed between people. Minisatellite tests, called 33.6 and 33.15, were most generally utilized in the UK, most parts of Europe and the USA, though pentameric (CAC)/(GTG)5 tests were transcendently applied in Germany. These purported multilocus tests (MLP) recognize sets of 15 to 20 variable parts for every individual going from 3.5 to 20 kb in size.

2. How is DNA Fingerprinting Done in Criminal Cases?

In criminal cases, a buccal swab is taken normally. The buccal swab test collection technique is non-obtrusive and helpful. In the case of a criminal offense, a buccal swab can undoubtedly be defiled with microbes. Further, the Buccal swab DNA yield is extremely less. A blood test is a decent substitution for a buccal swab test. We can utilize a blood test too.

3. Who discovered DNA fingerprinting technique?

Alec Jeffreys invented the DNA fingerprinting technique in 1984. Lal ji Singh is known as the Father of Indian fingerprinting.

4. State two applications of DNA fingerprinting.

The applications of DNA fingerprinting are given below:

This technique is used to identify genes connected with hereditary diseases.

This technique is very useful in forensics to detect the crime. 

Biology • Class 12

DNA Fingerprinting Technology: Description and Use

The sphere of biology is constantly developing as researchers and scientists around the world make new discoveries and create new technological solutions which benefit the entire humanity. One of the most notable breakthroughs of the past decades was the creation of genetic fingerprinting, which enabled biotechnology to make considerable progress. Invented in 1984, DNA fingerprinting still remains relevant to this day, and it is used in many fields, including criminology.

DNA fingerprinting has been a dominant technology for several decades now, but its discovery was, to a large extent, accidental. In 1984, Dr. Alec Jeffreys studied patterns of inheritance of different genetic diseases and decided to conduct an experiment to trace a certain type of DNA repeating in family members (Bryant & la Velle, 2018). The experiment performed by Dr. Jeffreys failed to attain its goal; instead, it demonstrated that DNA patterns varied among all of the samples. Thus, it was discovered that every person was likely to have their own DNA unless they had a twin brother or sister. Soon, Dr. Jeffreys understood that his discovery could be used for identifying individuals using their DNA, a technique which today is known as genetic fingerprinting. Dr. Alec Jeffreys said that the discovery was a moment that completely changed his career and made him distance himself from the field of genetic disease research (Bryant & la Velle, 2018). Thus, DNA fingerprinting became an invention that was unexpected yet still made a considerable impact on the sphere of biology.

It is clear that DNA fingerprinting substantially influenced society, but its creation was possible only because of preceding discoveries. One of them is the research into the structure of DNA by Francis Crick and James Watson, which then allowed scientists to establish how DNA could duplicate (Phelan, 2021). Only based on the previous research Dr. Alec Jeffreys was able to make a breakthrough. DNA fingerprinting had a massive influence on society and especially in the field of criminology since it enabled criminal justice agencies to enhance their expertise. For instance, DNA fingerprinting analysis became the main factor behind the acquittal of 200 falsely imprisoned in the United States (Phelan, 2021). Basically, genetic fingerprinting made it possible to determine the real criminals based on their genetic material.

Apart from being used for the purpose of forensics, DNA fingerprinting is also utilized in other important spheres. For instance, the technique is used in the analysis of the genetic diversity of plants, the results of which allow environmentalists and biologists to detect areas in need of new species (Sharma et al., 2018). Moreover, genetic fingerprinting is also successfully used for the establishment of kinship between people. For example, companies 23andMe and MyHeritage, at some point, provided free DNA analysis services to immigrants who wanted to reunite with their families (Kofman, 2018). Thus, DNA fingerprinting is a technique which is used successfully across different spheres and assists professionals in their work.

DNA fingerprinting was invented by Dr. Alec Jeffreys, who made an accidental discovery that revolutionized numerous fields, including criminology, and had a considerable impact on society. Dr. Alec Jeffreys studied the inheritance of genetic diseases when he found that DNA patterns were unique to all people. As a result of the breakthrough finding, DNA fingerprinting was invented, which is used to this day in forensics and other areas. Genetic fingerprinting contributed to the improvement of the criminal justice system enabling state agencies to be more equipped to determine real perpetrators. Additionally, DNA fingerprinting is used for studying the genetic diversity of plants and establishing kinship in people.

Bryant, J., & la Velle, L. (2018). Introduction to bioethics . John Wiley & Sons.

Kofman, A. (2018). DNA testing might help reunite families separated by trump. But it could create a privacy nightmare . The Intercept. Web.

Phelan, J. (2021). What is life? A guide to biology with physiology (5th ed.). W.H.Freeman.

Sharma, S., Negi, M., & Tripathi, S. (2018). DNA fingerprinting of plants: Applications for conservation and utilisation of bio-resources . The Energy and Resource Institute. Web.

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Good Research Paper About DNA Fingerprinting

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Social Issues , Human , Evidence , Sexual Abuse , DNA , Science , Criminal Justice , Crime

Words: 2750

Published: 02/28/2020


This research paper will discuss the significant contribution of DNA fingerprinting in the criminal justice system for being able to provide a reliable basis for conviction. DNA fingerprint analysis is referred as an accurate indicator to determine the guilt and innocence of an accused. The history, importance and various DNA fingerprinting techniques shall be discussed. In addition, DNA fingerprinting is considered as more superior than other forensic science methods since the technology has improved over time. DNA fingerprinting has allowed the test of smaller amounts of material, faster testing procedures and more conclusive results. Finger ridge analysis is science and cannot be flawed since what can be seen by the naked eye can be verified by forensic science. It has become an acceptable and a reliable method that deals with identification of individuals during crime scene investigations.


Newton (2004) explained that DNA fingerprinting has become a permanent process that has been accepted by society as a method to prove the innocence or guilt of the accused in criminal cases, and clarifying paternity. In fact, DNA fingerprinting has been regarded by law-enforcement officials as one of the most significant revolution in forensic science (Garfield, 1989). DNA fingerprinting can also be used in paternity testing and other biological applications. The individual-specific genetic fingerprints can be obtained from samples taken from the human body such as blood, a strand of hair, semen, and skin cells (Garfield, 1989). The flexibility of the fingerprinting process makes it an ideal technique during criminal prosecutions and forensic investigations. Although there are some who oppose that the DNA fingerprinting may violate protected freedoms under the Constitution such as the right against self-incrimination and the invasion of privacy, evidence is still obtained and presented in court to identify alleged perpetrators.

History of DNA Fingerprinting

According to Newton (2004), the first fingerprint research went down in various blind routes that had to undergo tandem repeat DNA in the human genome. It was inside Professor Jeffreys’s lab that resolved the human copy of the myoglobin gene that produced the oxygen carrying protein in muscle. Initially, the grubby mess of the first fingerprint was refined into clean patterns where DNA fingerprints which are unique in every person can be clearly deciphered. Lach & Patsis (2006) explains DNA or known as deoxyribonucleic acid that contained a specific sequence of bases known as nucleotides. These nucleotides hold the information of all the characteristics of living organisms. Such DNA information is inherited from the parents. DNA can be found in each cell of every living organism (Lach & Patsis, 2006).

Types of DNA Test Methods

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) One of the techniques of DNA printing is called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which was initially discovered by Kary Mullis in 1986 (Coyle & Schieman, 2007). This method became the foundation component of the majority of techniques used in DNA fingerprinting. The PCR is the improved process that is able to generate an ample copy number of the DNA region of interest, or target, allowing for the detection of a specific DNA sequence in a sample that may be used for further analysis using other methods such as DNA sequencing (Coyle & Schieman, 2007). Due to the intricacies of forensic science, the DNA expert must be able to recognize the full significance of a suspect who may be sharing the same DNA profile as the one that was left at a crime scene. Hence, to be able to communicate the significance of a suspect being included as a donor of a DNA sample, the expected frequency of that genotype in the human population should be computed and reported as a random match probability (Coyle & Schieman, 2007). With PCR, there is a need for the replication of genomic DNA that will need various enzymes such as the helicase, gyrase, RNA polymerase, and DNA polymerase, aside from the ribonucleotides and deoxy-ribonucleotides (Coyle & Schieman, 2007, p.24). The nucleotides are the building blocks or also known as the raw materials used for the formation of short strands of RNA primers, after they develop to newly synthesized and longer strands of DNA. The purpose of the helicase and gyrase is to separate and relax the duplex strands of DNA which contains each chromosome. This is now known as the condensed “package” of DNA which has been derived at birth. Such method made it possible for the RNA polymerase to combine to become single DNA strands and produce short segments of complementary RNA. The outcome of this method becomes a hybrid duplex that is composed of one strand of DNA and one strand of RNA with a free 3-hydroxyl assembly (Coyle & Schieman, 2007, p.27). Such hybrid duplex with its free 3-hydroxyl group is the target needed by the DNA polymerase, which has been identified as a DNA synthesizing enzyme. Thereafter, the DNA polymerase hits its target and moves toward a 5 to 3 direction. With this movement, there will be a creation of the suitable deoxy-nucleotide that will be added to the increasing chain that complements the existing nucleotide of the opposite strand (Coyle & Schieman, 2007). The end result will be a double-stranded DNA molecule that is a combination of one old strand and one new strand. The process of PCR amplification of segments of DNA covers three main steps. The first step is the separation or the denaturation of the DNA double helix at high temperature, which is usually 95 degrees Celsius. The second step involves the annealing of short complementary DNA primer sequences which will determine the specific region of DNA to be amplified that has to be at least 50 to 65 degrees Celsius. The third step is the synthesis or extension that has to be at least 72 degrees Celsius. This will mark the completion of the amplification process for a single cycle of PCR (Coyle & Schieman, 2007).

DNA Sequencing

This method of DNA testing is the most current among the techniques. It is called the DNA sequencing, which is considered as a variation on the PCR theme or the PCR primer extension reaction that has three main differences. The first has only one oligo-primer which is being used in the reaction, which resulted to the primer extension having only one of the two strands of the double-stranded DNA template (Coyle & Schieman, 2007, p.28). The second main difference is that there is a need for a bigger amount of template. In the case of the PCR, the starting copy number of target DNA molecules must be more than 1,000 in order to derive microgram quantities of the final product. In DNA sequencing, there is an estimate of 5 times 10 copies of target molecules in order to generate a good quality of fluorescent signals in order to comprehend the targeted DNA. Hence, the PCR reaction must first be completed in order to generate a sufficient amount of templates needed for direct sequencing, or the process of cloning that will be succeeded by the sequencing of the clone (Coyle & Schieman, 2007, p.28). The last main difference is the inclusion of the dideoxy-ribonucleotides, which have been fluorescent labeled, together with the standard deoxy-ribonucleotides. The dideoxy-ribonucleotides have been identified to serve two purposes. In terms of the chemical process, the term dideoxy refers to the nucleotides that have a hydrogen atom attached to the 3-carbon of the sugar, rather than the hydroxyl group of the standard deoxy-nucleotide (Coyle & Schieman, 2007). The first function in the reaction is to act as the DNA chain terminator. The second function deals with the fluorescent tagging or labeling. With such label or tag, it becomes the signal that is easily identified in the event that it has been provoked by an ample energy source that may come from a laser. DNA cannot be seen by the naked eye. Hence, the fluorescent label shall enable the detection of each nucleotide base.

Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP)

This type of DNA that is called Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism or AFLP is a very useful method that is used to genotype individuals of species that has small amount or no genome sequence data that is available. The AFLP initially creates the fragments by enzyme digestion at specific DNA sequence sites, which is different from the RAPD method. In RAPD, the process will generate directly from PCR the number of different length DNA fragments that will come from an individual by using six-base long primers. This type of fragment generation does not dependent on any of the factors which may influence the PCR efficiency. At the same time, such technique is less sensitive to slightly variable reaction conditions, which makes it easier to reproduce. The AFLP method will initially treat the genome with identified DNA restriction enzymes and cuts them into a consistent set of fragments (Coyle & Schieman, 2007). Thereafter, the DNA linkers or the double-stranded DNA shall be connected and linked to the ends of these fragments. As a result of the attached linkers, the fragments will now have the same two 20–30 base pairs of DNA sequence and will be amplified with just only two particular oligo-primers (Coyle & Schieman, 2007).

Short Tandem Repeats (STRs)

This type of DNA technique uses the tandemly repeated DNA units of mini- and microsatellite loci are often very useful for genotyping on the basis of the high level of polymorphic variation in a population (Coyle & Schieman, 2007, p. 39). The microsatellite sequences, which have been popularly known as short tandem repeats or STRs have a repetitive unit of two to six bases in length. They are then replicated in a tandem or head-to-tail direction. This discovery is based on previous studies where the genomic DNA was first isolated and then later on fractionated by application of concentrated gradients (Coyle & Schieman, 2007). After which, the fractions shall undergo analysis using spectrophotometry, and then every density of the fraction shall be plotted against their absorbency assessments. It was revealed that the bulk of the genomic DNA was taken from one fraction and produced the major absorbance peak. However, one or more secondary, or satellite absorbance peaks were also discovered. These fractions contained AT-rich repetitive DNA sequences that are generally connected with the centromere or telomere regions of chromosomes (Coyle & Schieman, 2007).

Purpose of DNA Fingerprinting

Lach & Patsis (2006) explain that one of the first accepted uses of DNA fingerprinting was in the investigation of sexual assault and rape cases. The criminal investigators must be able to match the DNA of the semen found at the scene of the crime, together with the DNA of the probable suspect to determine who committed the crime. The DNA sample from the rapist is collected using a simple vaginal swab from the victim or any other semen that was released in the crime scene during the assault of the victim (Lach & Patsis, 2006). In addition, paternity tests can be done by applying the DNA fingerprinting process which has been accepted worldwide. It is through the paternity tests that the potential fathers of the child will ask the forensic experts to analyze their DNA samples that will be compared the child and mother’s DNA. The result will prove who among the potential fathers has the most DNA in common with the child in question. (Lach & Patsis, 2006). In every crime scene, the most common evidence gathered by criminal investigators are fingerprints. The DNA fingerprinting process is a scientific tool to profile the criminal who authored the crime. Sheldon (2011) stated that the fingerprints are reproduced images of the ridged surfaces on the skin, which is an outcome of the oil that has been transferred from the skin. The fingerprints will now be transferred and imprinted on the surface of an object that had been touched by a specific individual. The impression on the surface is usually visible. However, there are instances when the fingerprints are latent or cannot be seen by the naked eye. There are several methods or techniques to collect fingerprints. In fact, the quality of the impression that may be obtained is dependent on the type of technique that is used to preserve and enhance the fingerprint obtained from the crime scene (Sheldon, 2011).

Rosen & Gothard (2009) state that chemistry is an essential tool and plays a critical role during criminal investigations to help solve crimes. The DNA fingerprinting process has been instrumental in profiling of criminals to assess the evidence obtained in a crime scene to arrest the offenders. It is strongly believed that DNA fingerprinting methods have been tried and tested to ensure accuracy. Dempsey & Forst (2011) argue that the use of the revolutionary technological advancements can be useful instruments to promote international law and prevent transnational crimes, organized crimes, and terrorism attacks. However, it bears to stress that DNA contamination is one of the greatest risks that the evidence must be safeguarded from. In case the DNA sample of evidence is found to be contaminated, it cannot be admitted as evidence inside the courtroom due to inaccuracy of the results obtained. The evidence can be contaminated in the crime scene based on the way it is packaged and transported to the laboratory, and also during analysis (Lach & Patsis, 2006). Hence, these human errors have to be prevented to avoid the inadmissibility of inaccurate evidence. Finally, fingerprints represent the highest standard of forensic science that has to be handled with utmost caution and care. DNA fingerprinting is a vital tool that will help solve crimes, but must continuously include other novel scientific processes to ensure it is precise and accurate. The poor forensic analysis done by examiners can cause the conviction of innocent people who will be sentenced to suffer life imprisonment for crimes they did not commit. Hence, the reliability of fingerprint evidence can still be developed over time, after application of technology and continuously evolving scientific processes. With the help of chemicals such as luminol, the forensic expert will be able to collect evidence in the crime scenes. This is a breakthrough from the first analysis which appeared to produce no physical evidence, but has been further examined on the particle level to make it impossible to leave a crime without a trace (Lach & Patsis, 2006). Even though there are still some factors that make it difficult to preserve a good DNA sample, it is believed that progress shall develop in the field of forensic science to ensure a limitless future with the advancement of technology in the coming years.


Coyle, H.M. & Schieman, J. (2007). Nonhuman DNA Typing: Theory and Casework Applications. Florida: CRC Press. Demsey, J.S. and Forst, L.S. (2011). An Introduction to Policing. Belmont, California: Cengage Learning. Garfield, E. (1989). DNA Fingerprinting: A Powerful Law-Enforcement Tool With Serious Social Implications. The Scientist. 3(11), 346-347. Girard, J. (2011). Criminalistics: Forensic Science, Crime and Terrorism. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett. Hughes, P. (1996). DNA Printing. 96/44. Research Paper Science and Environment Section. House of Commons Library. Lach, C. and Patsis, T. (2006). DNA Fingerprinting. Project Report. Worcester Polytechnic Li, S.Z. and Jain, A.K. (2009). Encyclopedia of Biometrics.Vol. 1. New York: Springer. Laska, P. R. (2011). Interface: A Guide for Professionals Supporting the Criminal Justice System. New York: Springer. Newton, G. (2004). Discover DNA Printing. Inside Time. Web. Retrieved on 2 April 2, 2014, Retrieved from, http://www.insidetime.org/resources/Publications/Discovering_DNA_Fingerprinting_Jeff.pdf. Osterburg, J. W. and Ward, R. (2010). Criminal Investigation. New Jersey: Elsevier. Rosen, J. and Gothard, L. Q. (2009). Encyclopedia of Physical Science. New York: Infobase Publishing. Sheldon, D. A. (2011). Forensic Science in Court. United Kingdom: Rowman and Littlefield.


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Biology Discussion

DNA Fingerprinting: Technique and Significance

dna fingerprinting essay


This is also known as ‘DNA PROFILING’ o ‘DNA TYPING’. DNA fingerprinting is a technique to identify a person on the basis of his/her DNA specificity.

The practice of using thumbs impression of a person, as an identifying mark is very well known since long.

The study of finger, palm and sole prints is called dermatoglyphics and it has been a subject of human interest.

But, the concept of DNA fingerprinting is totally a new approach in the field of molecular biology. Sir Alec Jeffreys (1985-86) invented the DNA fingerprinting technique at Leicester University, United Kingdom.

DNA of an individual carries some specific sequence of bases, which do not carry any information for protein synthesis. Such nucleotide base sequences are repeated many times and are found in many places throughout the length of DNA. The number of repeats is very specific in each individual. The tandem repeats of short sequences are called ‘mini satellites’ or ‘variable number tandem repeats’ (VNTRs). Such repeats are used as genetic markers in personal identity.

1. The first step is to obtain DNA sample of the individual in question.

2. DNA is also isolated from bloodstains, semen stains or hair root from the body of the victim or from victim’s cloth even after many hours of any criminal offence. Even it can be obtained from vaginal swabs of rape victims. The amount of DNA needed for developing fingerprints is very small, only a few nanograms.

3. The DNA is digested with a suitable restriction endonuclease enzyme, which cuts them into fragments.

4. The fragments are subjected to gel electrophoresis by which the fragments are separated according to their size.

5. The separated fragments are copied onto a nitrocellulose filter membrane by Southern blotting technique.

6. Special DNA probes are prepared in the laboratory and made radioactive by labeling with radioactive isotopes. These probes contain repeated sequences of bases complimentary to those on mini satellites.

7. The DNA on the nitrocellulose filter membrane is hybridized with the radioactive probes and the free probes are washed off.

8. The bands to which the radioactive probes have been hybridized are detected through autoradiography. This is a technique where an X-ray film is exposed to the nitrocellulose membrane to mark the places where the radioactive DNA probes have bound to the DNA fragments. These places are marked as dark bands when X-ray film is exposed.

9. The dark bands on the X-ray film represent the DNA fingerprints or DNA profiles.

10. Comparison is made between the banding pattern of collected DNA sample and suspected human subject to confirm the criminal with hundred percent accuracy (Fig.5.24).

A Schematic Representation of DNA Fingerprinting of a Person Accused of Rape and of the Semen Stain Recovered from the Clothes of Rape Victim

Significance :

1. The technique is extensively used as confirmatory test in crime detection in cases of rape and murder.

2. Disputed parentage can be solved by the technique.

3. This method can confirm species of more closeness or far apart from evolutionary point of view so that taxonomical problems can be solved.

4. The technique also can be used to study the breeding pattern of endangered animals.

5. Clinically this method can be used in restoring the health of blood cancer patients.

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The Main Objective of DNA Fingerprinting in Agriculture Essay

Agriculture seriously depends on the ability of specialists to differentiate among genotypes and promote plant diversity. Therefore, the main objective of DNA fingerprinting in agriculture is to overcome the limitation of insufficient dissimilarity among prior genotypes and come up with the best ideas to discover new molecular markers and collect data differently (Piggott et al. , 2015). The introduction of DNA markers made it possible for agriculture specialists to develop novel chemical reactions and significantly pushed the plant science forward. Some of the most important areas where DNA fingerprinting is used for agricultural science are hybridisation, gene flow, and mating systems (Evans et al. , 2019). The advent of this innovation made it possible to analyse plants from remote areas and run specific sampling procedures that could help isolate the biggest issues and make it easier to respond to genotype problems.

Currently, DNA fingerprinting is directly associated with chemical fertilizers and hormones that assist in the fight against an abusive usage of pesticides. Therefore, DNA markers protect soil from pollution and make it easier for agriculture experts to stop the current decline in the quality of agrarian products (Wossen et al. , 2019). The growing demand puts a serious strain on molecular biology because scientists have to invest more time and money in research projects that focus on genetic background or additional DNA techniques. Possible crop improvements and cultivar identification may only be possible under the condition where DNA fingerprinting is in place (Coyotzi et al. , 2017). Agriculture experts, on the other hand, should ensure that chromosome engineering and crop germplasm may bring significant benefits to the area.

Overall, DNA fingerprinting is the best way to improve biosafety and maintain decent crop quality. In the face of numerous challenges linked to food shortage and population upsurge, it may be safe to say that DNA-based technologies are essential for the national economy because they help researchers establish better solutions for modern problems that might require additional expenditures. Even if it is going to cost more to investigate the potential technological capabilities of DNA-based agricultural techniques, agrarians should pay more attention to the pioneering methods in DNA plant engineering to create a much more efficient environment for plant cultivation. In the future, the agrarian community may be able to witness non-model plant species being genotyped-by-sequencing (Kosmowski et al. , 2019). The cost-effectiveness of the proposed methods may also be expected to increase, as experts will have the opportunity to obtain full genomic sequence data and complete preventive analyses of risky situations based on massive data sets spawned by next-generation sequencing technologies.

Reference List

Coyotzi, S. et al. 2017 ‘Agricultural soil denitrifiers possess extensive nitrite reductase gene diversity’, Environmental Microbiology , 19(3), pp. 1189-1208.

Evans, A. E. et al. 2019 ‘Agricultural water pollution: key knowledge gaps and research needs’, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability , 36, 20-27.

Kosmowski, F. et al. 2019 ‘Varietal identification in household surveys: results from three household-based methods against the benchmark of DNA fingerprinting in southern Ethiopia’, Experimental Agriculture , 55(3), pp. 371-385.

Piggott, J. J. et al. (2015) ‘Climate warming and agricultural stressors interact to determine stream periphyton community composition’, Global Change Biology , 21(1), pp. 206-222.

Wossen, T. et al. 2019 ‘Poverty reduction effects of agricultural technology adoption: the case of improved cassava varieties in Nigeria’, Journal of Agricultural Economics , 70(2), pp. 392-407.

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DNA Fingerprinting (Essay Sample) 2023

Table of Contents

DNA Fingerprinting

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Essay Writing

Ever since DNA has been determined as a way of identifying criminals, DNA fingerprinting has been more prevalently used in crime scenes. DNA fingerprinting is a method for identifying and assessing the genetic information of DNA in a living thing’s cell. DNA is called a fingerprint because of the improbability that two people will have similar DNA characteristics in the same manner that no people can have identical fingerprints. Learn more about the various reasons of DNA fingerprinting, ways of doing it, and its social implications.

Different conditions demand DNA fingerprinting. One reason for using DNA fingerprinting is to identify the real parents or siblings of a person. The method can be helpful in finding family members and determining true heirs. Also, DNA fingerprinting is relevant when babies have been switched at birth and parents want to know who their real babies are. Baby switching in the hospital is not only soap-opera stuff but happens in real life because of accidents and tired healthcare professionals who make mistakes, apart from possible conscious, malevolent motives. Another purpose of DNA fingerprinting is solving crimes, and this is already practiced under forensic science. Blood, skin, semen, and tissues at the crime scene can be analyzed to determine if the suspect was present or not at the crime scene. Finally, DNA fingerprinting can help identify bodies. During war or disasters, bodies can be mangled or already achieve the state of decomposition and the only way of identifying them may be through DNA fingerprinting. Hence, DNA can help resolve diverse issues regarding the determination of identity.

Doctors or laboratory technicians can conduct DNA fingerprinting in several ways. First, they can take blood samples from a vein. The doctor will wrap a band around the upper arm to stop blood flow and then insert the need to draw a blood sample. Another way is getting blood through a heel stick which is the most common approach for babies. To do this, several blood drops are collected from the baby’s heel. Several more methods are possible such as collecting DNA from semen, dried blood, and saliva. DNA can also be acquired from hair and urine. If the body has decomposed already, bone and teeth samples can offer DNA as well. Different body discharges and parts can offer useful DNA samples.

DNA fingerprinting poses social implications as it has pros and cons. Since it can determine identities of dead bodies or used in crime scenes, DNA databases are being developed. On the one hand, DNA fingerprinting is more accurate than fingerprints and blood type and has been used to overturn death penalty rulings after finding out that the convicted were not at the crime scenes in the first place. On the other hand, several critics fear the impact of DNA fingerprinting on genetic profiling. For instance, some people feel that those determined as at risk for certain diseases through DNA characteristics may have problems getting jobs or being promoted. Likewise, the DNA sample may give predictive information about children and while it may be beneficial to police profiling can produce unnecessary discrimination. Discrimination can affect access to schools, housing, medical insurance, and livelihood. To avoid these negative effects, proponents of DNA fingerprinting recommend the confidentiality of DNA results and to have a law for resolving disputes from genetic discrimination.

DNA fingerprinting is helping many people find their relatives, identifying criminals, and the proper burial of dead bodies. While it can lead to genetic profiling and discrimination, the government and concerned organizations can set up mechanisms to reduce these negative impacts. The state can create proper regulations for DNA databases and their uses. DNA fingerprinting can offer more benefits than costs, and it is up to the people to find ways of maximizing the good it can do for humanity, especially in deterring and solving crimes.

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