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Home Science & Technology About DNA PDNA Technology Applications

DNA Technology Applications

DNA technology has revolutionized modern science. As it evolves, more and more applications are discovered to help us understand all living organisms and most importantly ourselves as human beings. DNA, or the genetic material—passed along from one generation to the next—holds many clues that have unlocked the mysteries behind human behavior, biological inheritance, biological identities, genetic diseases, evolution, and aging. Recent advances in DNA technology including PCR, cloning, DNA fingerprinting, gene therapy and genetic disease diagnosis have started to shape medicine, forensic sciences, environmental sciences, and national security.

Not long after the DNA structure was discovered in 1953, a revolutionary technology called PCR (polymerase chain reaction) was invented. PCR is the amplification of a specific sequence of DNA so that there are abundant copies of the same DNA sequence for further analysis or testing. PCR has made it possible to study a very small quantity of DNA that may belong to extinct species or unknown origins.

Two of the most mature applications using DNA technology include family relationship testing and forensic identification testing.

Paternity and other family relationship Testing

We all inherit half of our genetic materials (DNA) from our biological father and half from our biological mother. By comparing the genetic fingerprints between alleged parents and children, we can determine paternity and maternity conclusively using DNA testing technology.

A standard family relationship DNA test uses the 13 core loci on a DNA piece to form a genetic profile of each tested party. These 13 loci were proved to be highly variable among individuals. In fact, only identical twins will inherit the same patterns on these loci.

By using buccal swab or blood samples, the paternity DNA test starts with extracting DNA and preparing it for PCR. PCR amplifies the limited amount of extracted DNA, making billions of copies that will be used to generate the genetic profile. After all tested parties’ genetic profiles are generated, DNA analysts will look for a match between those profiles to determine the biological relationship that may exist between the tested parties.

For other family relationship DNA testing, certain degrees of relatedness need to be achieved to prove if any biological relationship exists among the tested parties.

Forensic Identification Testing

Since every person’s DNA fingerprint is unique except for identical twins, it is possible to compare a suspect’s or victim’s reference sample with any biological evidence left behind at the crime scene to link the person to the crime. DNA testing has become an indispensable tool for law enforcement agencies to solve crimes in recent years.

Often times, there will be cases without primary suspects or cold cases that happened before the DNA technology was utilized in forensics. Although it is not possible to make a comparison between a reference sample and an evidence sample in these cases, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have established the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) databases to store genetic profiles of convicted felons and evidence samples with unknown origins from crime scenes for possible “hits”. CODIS utilizes computer software to automatically search the databases for matching DNA profiles. If a match is made between a sample and a stored profile, CODIS can either identify the perpetrator or link two crimes together.

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