DNA Day experts answer your questions about DNA fingerprinting

20 April 2012

Above: Image © kilukilu, iStockphoto.com

How long does it take the real CSI guys to do genetic fingerprinting?

Not sure exactly how long, but let' s discuss would be involved. DNA isolated from crime scene sample, perhaps 1- 2 hours, PCR amplification to look for unique DNA identifiers for the suspects, most likely 1- 2 hours, and then you have to run it on a gel ( which is usually the pictures that they show with bands. So I think most likely about 6 hours tops ( it really depends on the crime scene lab) and the instruments they have.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

How do they create a DNA fingerprint? And would they be able to do this with the entire database?

I've never actually worked in a lab where they do fingerprinting so I can't tell how (literally) its done but the idea is to sequence key parts of the DNA from, let's say, a criminal suspect and DNA left at the crime scene. Extremely close matches between the two suggest that the suspect was actually there at the time.

- Answer provided by Jay Ingram

How have DNA fingerprinting and gel electrophoresis affected society over the years?

These technologies were some of the first to give us information about the identity of different organisms (or to be able to tell people apart genetically). On the human side, this information is valuable in many different ways to society, from criminal investigations, to paternity testing. In a larger sense, DNA fingerprinting was also one of the first technologies used for microbial profiling, so that we could start to understand some of the billions of microbes on the earth that we have never been able ...to study as they will not grow in a laboratory. However, DNA technologies have largely moved away from "fingerprinting" to more computationally intensive direct sequencing methods. Gel electrophoresis is still widely used in preparatory steps however.

- Answer provided by Dr. Monique Haakensen


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