Applications of genetic fingerprinting

The current applications of genetic fingerprinting and how they have helped society – 2000) The number and position of bands formed on each lane of gel is the actual genetic fingerprint of that DNA sample. The characteristics of certain segments of DNA vary from person to person and form a highly individual genetic fingerprint. This technology was developed in England during the mid-1980s and has rapidly become a widely used tool. (Roberts – 1998)

In a recent world event, the World Trade Centre Terrorist Attacks, used genetic fingerprinting to identify a large number of people. When the rescue workers discovered any human remains they couldn’t determine whether various body parts match the same victim so all the tissue found was collected for testing. If the cells are damaged, the DNA contained within them begins to disintegrate. The more heavily damaged samples will be analyzed through a different technique which can create a genetic profile based on another kind of DNA. The DNA used would be used from the Mitochondrion.

Meanwhile, relatives provided the medical examiner’s office with personal items that may contain DNA samples of the possible victims. They delivered a variety of items that were used by the missing persons such as combs, brushes, toothbrushes, shavers, eating utensils, cigarette butts, and chewing gum. The New York City medical examiner’s office analyzed these DNA samples to compile a genetic fingerprint that was compared with the body parts found from the ruins. ( – 2001) It was important to collect the samples so that the victims identified could have their remains returned to their families for a funeral.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said: “DNA evidence offers us the best opportunity to help families find their loved ones.” ( – 2001) Genetics have also been used in Law to help solve many crimes, including murder, rape, etc. When police visit the crime scene they search for many clues. With today’s technology, all they need to find is a tiny amount of blood, semen, a hair follicle or even saliva. It is unusual for police to find a high-quality fingerprint at a crime scene, but they are much more likely to find blood or semen. Furthermore, only a microscopically sized sample is required for a positive identification, enough to find the offender guilty.

As soon as the sample has been found it is sent off for testing. If the DNA doesn’t match that of the individual, that evidence alone can clear him/her. This has now released a large number of wrongly accused, innocent prisoners. During the 60’s and 70’s in America, in major cases such as murder, the criminal would be executed even if he/she was innocent. Current knowledge would have stopped the victim being executed and saved many other lives. But on the other hand this information has sent suspects to jail even though there isn’t any other evidence. It has been known that DNA evidence has helped catch a rapist in Florida and murderers in Washington State, Wisconsin and California. The California cases had remained unsolved since the 1970s. ( – 26/12/2001)

Now most developed countries have started to make a database of DNA fingerprints. This database only contains the DNA samples from people convicted of murder, assault, robbery and kidnapping. If a convict has finished his sentence in jail and is released but then goes and commits a murder, then the database can help a great deal in finding the culprit. (State to use genetic fingerprints – 14/7/1997) When the police go to the crime scene and find any sort of genetic evidence, they can use the database to match the DNA will that on the computer. This process will not only make it easier to determine who the murderer is but it will also save a great deal of time in searching for the criminal.

Some states in America are starting to get a sample of DNA from every new born baby and place it into a database of every citizen’s DNA fingerprint. In about 60-90 years every person in that state will have his/her DNA in a database acting as a guaranteed and certified official passport. This will result in everyone having an identity thus stopping any fraud, for example, undercover criminals traveling aboard and creating corruption in the new country. California and Massachusetts are among a number of states considering plans to create a computerized generic data base using blood and saliva samples of all people. (DNA ‘Fingerprints’ May One Day Be Our National ID Card – April 20, 1998) The FBi and a few other companies are helping other states adopt the technology.

The major problem of this technique is that it can take a while for the results to come through and it’s rather expensive. With time, the technology will become cheaper, faster and more accurate. Even more tribulations occur when felons find a new way to get around crimes without getting caught. Before this knowledge was around, criminals used gloves to prevent their fingerprints being left at the crime scene which the police could match and use it as evidence and send the person to jail. Now, all the criminal needs to leave is a tiny hair and he could be proved guilty. This can only lead to new ideas of preventing any DNA being left on the crime scene. Perhaps they might start to wear an all-in-one plastic suit that covers the head and skin. It is so important that there is a way to always find a criminal no matter what length he/her has gone to avoid being caught so society can run in a better way.

Couples who need to determine the biological father of their child can have DNA testing done. Blood is required from the mother, father and the child. The test can be done when the mother is pregnant or when the child has been born. The NHS doesn’t cover this process so it must be done privately and has to be paid for yourself. It can also be very expensive as it costs around �700-�800. (Varied Applications of DNA Fingerprinting – 1999)

Another very important application for genetic fingerprinting is identifying killed soldiers in wars where their facial features are no longer recognisable or dog tags are not accompanying the body. The process used would be the same as that of the tragedy in New York. This would put many families at rest knowing their loved one isn’t buried somewhere they don’t want. What’s more the solider can have a proper funeral. The remains of serviceman from the Korean War, Vietnam War and World War II have all been identified using DNA technology. ( -2001)

The future for genetic fingerprinting is bright. Scientist’s believe that it can only get bigger. The human genome project is very important in knowing what part of the gene does what. This will eventually lead into doctors, for example, knowing if the child being born will have brown hair and blue eyes. Also patients born knowing they have a cancer causing gene are prepared and must always be examined every month once they reach a certain age. ( – 2001) This will, in the long run, help save millions of lives and enable people to live a long and healthy life.

In all cases there is a possibility of the results being incorrect and errors can occur. Most people will agree that an innocent person shouldn’t be sent to jail, a guilty person allowed to walk free, or a biological mother denied legal custody of her child, simply because the lab technician did not conduct the experiment accurately. There is also difference in accuracy depending on racial background. There is more likely to be inaccuracies among Hispanics and very rarely among Caucasians or African-Americans.

Currently, not enough is known about ethnic groups to achieve more exact results. The likelihood that two individuals, other than identical twins, will have the same genetic fingerprint varies from about one in 800,000 to about one in 1 billion. In all, genetic material has been proved to be an extremely powerful tool in putting away the guilty, proving innocence, re-uniting family and identifying the missing.

“An inmate who spent two decades on death row before DNA evidence exonerated him walked out of prison a free man Friday, saying he just wanted to get home and be with his family (Billiot, 2003).” We read about these cases …

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