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Rapid DNA testing technology to put a faster finger on crime

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August 4, 2010

Rapid DNA testing could prove a boon to law enforcement agencies (Image: Tony Webster via ...

Rapid DNA testing could prove a boon to law enforcement agencies (Image: Tony Webster via Flickr)

DNA testing has provided the biggest revolution in the identification of criminals since the adoption of fingerprinting in the early part of last century. Still, the technology has limitations. Most genetic tests take 24-72 hours but the time taken for DNA to go from crime scene to identification can span as long as 14 days. By the time that the results are back, the suspects often have been released. A newly developed test could make checking DNA from people arrested for crimes against DNA samples from crime scenes stored in forensics databases almost as easy as matching fingerprints.

To increase the speed of forensic DNA testing, scientists from the University of Arizona and the UK's Forensic Science Service built a chip that can copy and analyze DNA samples taken from a cotton swab. Forensic technicians can collect DNA from suspects by swabbing their mouth, mixing the sample with a few chemicals, and warming it up. The DNA-testing-lab-on-a-chip does the rest. The entire process takes only four hours at present but the research team is already optimizing it and reducing the cycle time down to two hours.

With the test, police could check on whether a person’s DNA matches that found at past crime scenes while suspects are still being processed and before a decision on whether to release them on bail has been made. Portable DNA testing could also be used in disasters such as earthquakes to identify victims the researchers said.

The researchers also envisage a time in the near future when DNA could be identified by such small instruments using the technology that testing could be done in a police car or by immigration officials as a border with the goal of proving identification, thereby repelling terrorists and other criminals.

The rapid DNA testing technology is being tested in police labs in the U.S. and Europe and could be commercialized in 18 months.

A report on the fast forensic test appears in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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3 Comments

This is a totally unnecessary waste of money. There is a cure for criminal behavior now:



Nicholson, B. 1984;  Does kissing aid human bonding by semiochemical  addiction?   British Journal  of  Dermatology  111(5):623-627.

Nicholson, B. 2009:  Of Love  Amazon Digital Services, http://tinyurl.com/y8vxlxp ASIN: B0030MIG24

TogetherinParis
5th August, 2010 @ 05:56 am PDT

I would like to see this applyed to heritage applications as well.!

Facebook User
5th August, 2010 @ 10:05 am PDT

>>newly developed test could make checking DNA from people arrested for crimes against DNA samples from crime scenes stored in forensics databases almost as easy as matching fingerprints.>>

Uhm, you should read up on the process of matching fingerprints. This is still a daunting and long process. Dont believe anything shows like CSI are trying to tell you...

Skipjack
6th August, 2010 @ 02:18 am PDT
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