According to Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, DNA fingerprinting, also called genetic fingerprinting, is “a technique for comparing the nucleotide sequences of fragments of DNA from different sources” in which “the fragments are obtained by treating the DNA with various endonucleases, enzymes that break DNA strands at specific sites” (1). Put simply, it’s a method of analyzing DNA to identify a subject. DNA fingerprinting is often used in forensic cases.
A method for identifying and analyzing individuals. Much like fingerprints, everyone has a different DNA make up, and DNA cannot be altered. Forensic scientists can use this to identify criminals or victims, and doctors can use DNA fingerprinting to identify and develop treatments for genetic disorders.
Well, you know how each individual human has a totally unique fingerprint, though the differences may not be noticeable to the human eye? It’s the same with our DNA. The “fingerprints” or unique characteristics of DNA was discovered accidentally by English scientist Dr. Alec J. Jeffreys in 1984. Our genes have repeating sequences that look a lot like bar codes, little black lines, that can be seen with various scientific processes.
Two years later, DNA from a crime scene was compared to suspect Richard Buckland. It didn’t match, and he became the first person whose innocence was proven by DNA fingerprinting.
The process of DNA fingerprinting allows us to analyze the unique components of a person’s DNA. A person’s DNA – their genetic code – is as unique as a fingerprint, however, “classic fingerprinting is subject to interpretation and usable samples can be difficult to obtain. When properly conducted, DNA-based testing not only provides exclusionary evidence, it can provide positive evidence of a person’s identity without bias.”
The accuracy of DNA analysis for identification has revolutionized not only forensics for identifying criminals and victims, but it has also been very useful in maternity/paternity testing and disaster victim identification.
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