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DNA Fingerprinting

Genetic Fingerprinting As A Forensic Tool

Genetic fingerprinting is now an important tool in the arsenal of forensic chemists. It is used in forensics to examine DNA samples taken from a crime scene and compare them to those of a suspect. Criminals almost always leave evidence of their identity that contains DNA at the crime scene—hair, blood, semen, or saliva. These materials can be carefully collected from the crime scene and fingerprinted

Although DNA fingerprinting is scientifically sound, the use of DNA fingerprinting in courtrooms remains controversial. There are several objections to its use. Lawyers who misrepresent the results of DNA fingerprints may confuse jurors. DNA fingerprinting relies on the probability that individuals will not produce the same banding pattern on a gel after their DNA has been fingerprinted. Establishing this probability relies on population statistics. Each digested fragment of DNA is given a probability value. The value is determined by a formula relating the combination of sequences occurring in the population. There is concern that not enough is known about the distribution of banding patterns of DNA in the population to express this formula correctly. Concerns also exist regarding the data collection and laboratory procedure associated with DNA fingerprinting procedures. For example, it is possible that cells from a laboratory technician could be inadvertently amplified and run on the gel. However, because each person has a unique DNA sequence and this sequence cannot be altered by surgery or physical manipulation, DNA fingerprinting is an important tool for solving criminal cases.

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