Any type of organism can be identified by examination of DNA sequences unique to that species. Identifying individuals within a species is less precise at this time, although when DNA sequencing technologies progress farther, direct comparison of very large DNA segments, and possibly even whole genomes, would become feasible and practically would allow a precise individual identification.
DNA fingerprinting, (also called DNA testing, DNA typing, DNA profiling or genetic fingerprinting), in genetics, method of isolating and making images of sequences of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The technique was developed in 1984 by the British geneticist Alec Jeffreys, after he noticed the existence of certain sequences of DNA (called mini-satellites) that do not contribute to the function of a gene but are repeated within the gene and in other genes of a DNA sample. Jeffreys also determined that each organism has a unique pattern of these mini-satellites, the only exception being multiple individuals from a single zygote (e.g., identical twins).
DNA fingerprinting is a technique employed by forensic scientists to assist in the identification of individuals by their respective DNA profiles. DNA profiles are encrypted sets of numbers that reflect a person’s DNA makeup, which can also be used as the person’s identifier. DNA profiling should not be confused with full genome sequencing. It is used in, for example, parental testing and criminal investigation.
To identify individuals, forensic scientists scan 13 DNA regions, or loci, that vary from person to person and use the data to create a DNA profile of that individual (sometimes called a DNA fingerprint). There is an extremely small chance that another person has the same DNA profile for a particular set of 13 regions.
Some Examples of DNA Uses for Forensic Identification
- Identify potential suspects whose DNA may match evidence left at crime scenes
- Exonerate persons wrongly accused of crimes
- Identify crime and catastrophe victims
- Establish paternity and other family relationships
- Identify endangered and protected species as an aid to wildlife officials (could be used for prosecuting poachers)
- Detect bacteria and other organisms that may pollute air, water, soil, and food
- Match organ donors with recipients in transplant programs
- Determine pedigree for seed or livestock breeds
- Authenticate consumables such as caviar and wine