DNA fingerprinting is a process that helps scientists and forensic investigators identify a person’s genetic profile. Since 1987 when it was first used for forensic investigation, DNA fingerprinting technology has never looked back. It has become widely popular, acceptable and more economical. Plus the process is much more straightforward now.
Apart from its exploitation in forensic investigations to solve mysteries of crime, the chief utilization of DNA fingerprinting is for parentage testing. This test, as the name suggests, verifies the relationship between different people mostly between parents and their children. In the United States alone, the figure for parentage verification tests runs in a few hundred thousand examinations each year.
No longer does DNA fingerprinting depend on the availability of a blood sample for establishing its results. In fact, with the advancement in DNA testing, it’s possible to scrape a few cells off anyone’s cheek from the inner side and extract the required DNA this way. The process is very clean and causes no pain to the person going through the examination. Hence this is ideal for kids too whose parentage has to be ascertained.
The technology that powers DNA fingerprinting has been evolving for last three decades and has gone through significant enhancements. It was in 1988 that someone was convicted of murder for the first time on the basis of DNA fingerprinting. Yes, no one hates this innovative testing method than Colin Pitchfork, the one who was found guilty.
Back to the DNA fingerprinting technology initially, it was conducted via Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, an analysis technique in which DNA modifying enzymes were used to cut original DNA and it was known that the location where these enzymes would cut, would be different for any two persons tested. However, the test had its problems like requirements for a high-quality DNA and laboratory work of up to 3-4 weeks.
DNA scientists then moved on to Tandem Repeats for DNA fingerprinting as they realized that 80-90 percent of nucleotides in the human body is Junk DNA that takes no part in gene coding. Hence the focus was placed on repeated sequences of DNA.
The DNA fingerprinting technology got a real boost in recent years with the introduction of Polymerase chain reaction based testing. PCR takes care of the hurdles that DNS fingerprinting faced with older methods of testing. Now the techniques for genetic profiling are much more powerful delivering better results not only for forensic investigations but commercial DNA testing applications too.