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posted by janrinok on Saturday July 18 2015, @06:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the Doctor-Evil-and-Mini-Me-just-laughed dept.

A simple, lower-cost new method for DNA profiling of human hairs developed by the University of Adelaide should improve opportunities to link criminals to serious crimes.

The researchers have modified existing laboratory methods and been able to produce accurate DNA profiles from trace amounts at a much higher success rate.

"Technological advancements over the last 10 years have allowed police and forensic scientists to profile crime-scene DNA from ever smaller and more challenging samples collected from fingerprints, skin cells, saliva and hairs," says Associate Professor Jeremy Austin, Deputy Director with the University's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.

"DNA profiling of human hairs is critical to solving many serious crimes but most hairs found at crime scenes contain very little DNA because it has been severely dehydrated as part of the hair growth process. This makes DNA testing of hairs a real challenge."

[...] Lead-author Assistant Professor Dennis McNevin, from the University of Canberra, says: "Our simple modifications will allow this trace DNA to be analysed in a standard forensic laboratory with improved success rates of DNA profiling and without increased error rates.

"This is very important in forensic science as false positive results can lead to incorrect identifications and poor outcomes in the judicial system."

Related Stories

DNA Methylation Can Reveal Information About Criminal Suspects 6 comments

Crime scene DNA could be used to reveal a suspect's age—and whether they have cancer

A drop of blood left by a suspect at a crime scene is a treasure trove for forensic scientists. Genetic information extracted from such biological samples can be compared against DNA databases to see whether a sample's DNA sequence is a match for any known offenders, for example. To protect individuals' privacy, these analyses, known as DNA fingerprinting, are normally restricted to parts of the genome not involved in creating proteins. But in some countries, investigators hoping to narrow down their pool of suspects are allowed to identify certain protein-coding sequences that can help predict skin or eye color. And soon, scientists may be able to find out even more from an offender's DNA—including their age.

A new forensic approach analyzes the chemical tags attached to DNA, rather than genetic sequences themselves. These molecules, which can switch genes on and off, get added onto DNA throughout our life span in a process called DNA methylation. And because the patterns of DNA methylation change as we age, they could provide a good indication of how old a suspect is.

But this technique could inadvertently reveal a lot more about a suspect's health and lifestyle [DOI: 10.1016/j.tig.2018.03.006] [DX], raising tricky legal and ethical questions that may demand new privacy safeguards, scientists suggest in a commentary in the July issue of Trends in Genetics.

A brief interview with two of the authors is included in TFA.

Related: Better DNA Hair Analysis for Catching Criminals
Creating Wanted Posters from DNA Samples
The Problems With DNA Evidence
Study Predicts Appearance From Genome Sequence Data
GEDmatch: "What If It Was Called Police Genealogy?"
DNA Collected from Golden State Killer Suspect's Car, Leading to Arrest


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by davester666 on Saturday July 18 2015, @09:24PM

    by davester666 (155) on Saturday July 18 2015, @09:24PM (#210870)

    "...and with lower error rates".

    Because those errors tend to fuck over innocent people and/or let guilty people to free.

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Sunday July 19 2015, @07:16AM

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Sunday July 19 2015, @07:16AM (#210980) Journal

      Because those errors tend to fuck over innocent people

      Yes.

      and/or let guilty people to free.

      I strongly doubt that. That they haven't found your hair at that place isn't a proof that you weren't there, after all.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Sunday July 19 2015, @07:31AM

        by davester666 (155) on Sunday July 19 2015, @07:31AM (#210983)

        > I strongly doubt that. That they haven't found your hair at that place isn't a proof that you weren't there, after all.

        It does establish that someone else was there. And obviously, the unknown person is the one who did it. And you don't know why the cops aren't out looking for them, when they don't have proof you were even there...

        • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Sunday July 19 2015, @08:24AM

          by maxwell demon (1608) on Sunday July 19 2015, @08:24AM (#210988) Journal

          If they don't have any reason to suspect that you might have been involved, then how on earth did they justify to get your DNA in order to compare it with the DNA extracted from the hair?

          --
          The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
          • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Sunday July 19 2015, @06:25PM

            by davester666 (155) on Sunday July 19 2015, @06:25PM (#211144)

            You live in the area, you were 'seen' in the area, you were previously convicted of something, or it's one of those cold cases "we need to get the DNA of everyone in this town, it's voluntary, but if you refuse, we assume you are guilty and have your name and address published in the local paper"

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20 2015, @02:14PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20 2015, @02:14PM (#211427)

              All situations where without hair analysis you would not have caught the guilty anyway, and therefore the error in the hair analysis didn't cause someone who would otherwise been found guilty to go free. So no "guilty gets free because of erroneous hair analysis" but only "hair analysis didn't help either because of it being erroneous." BIG difference.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19 2015, @06:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19 2015, @06:50PM (#211151)

      > Because those errors tend to fuck over innocent people

      Keeps us all afraid. Our rulers like that. It's a feature.
      If you don't like it, there's only one effective solution.

      Secede.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 18 2015, @10:45PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 18 2015, @10:45PM (#210890)

    TFA doesn't mention anything about what they do. Anyone track down the research paper?

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Saturday July 18 2015, @11:23PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday July 18 2015, @11:23PM (#210898) Journal

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25999132 [nih.gov]

      Using telogen hairs-a common source of LTDNA-and matched reference DNA, the LCN method produced the highest number of concordant and non-concordant (i.e., dropped-in) alleles. In comparison, the reduced reaction volume with increased Taq polymerase yielded more full and concordant DNA profiles (all alleles combined) and less off-ladder alleles from a broad range of input DNA. In addition, this method resulted in less non-concordant alleles than LCN and no more than for standard PCR, which suggests that it may be preferred over increased PCR cycles for LTDNA analysis, either with or without consensus profiling and statistical modelling.

      CONCLUSIONS: Overall, this study highlights the importance and benefit of optimizing PCR conditions and developing improved laboratory methods to amplify and analyze LTDNA.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by captain normal on Sunday July 19 2015, @03:49AM

        by captain normal (2205) on Sunday July 19 2015, @03:49AM (#210958)

        So if you are planning some type of crime sneak around behind a barber shop and/or a hair salon to grab some strands of hair. When you commit the crime wear a clean room suit to keep your hair and skin cells away from the scene and scatter the copped hair around. Then you've fooled CSI.

        --
        Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--