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DNA evidence has been the gold standard in crime solving since Sir Alec Jeffreys first reported his DNA profiling technique in 1984. Since then the use of DNA in forensic investigations has been steadily expanding and evolvingDNA evidence has been the gold standard in crime solving since Sir Alec Jeffreys first reported his DNA profiling technique in 1984. Since then the use of DNA in forensic investigations has been steadily expanding and evolving. In some cases this evolution has required us to reexamine our legal system in light of new possibilities: The various cases concerning statutes of limitations being removed or circumvented (by bringing a case against a John Doe or genetic code) are just one example. More notably, the recent Supreme Court decision in Maryland v. King allowing DNA samples to be taken at the point of arrest concedes the importance of DNA evidence.

DNA has the power to link a culprit to a crime years after it was committed, or the equally powerful ability to free those wrongfully convicted. The massive backlogs some labs have encountered are really a testament to the power of DNA evidence. As the technology developed, allowing smaller and more complex samples to be analyzed, CSIs began to submit more samples. This issue focuses on the latest DNA technologies, designed specifically to address these issues and increase the efficacy of DNA evidence.

“DNA Fingerprinting Comes Of Age” discusses how “in recent years automation suppliers have started to provide smaller, more affordable instruments that enable these labs to automate many of the common rate-limiting steps: extracting the DNA sample from punch cards, lysing the cell to extract DNA, transferring liquid reagents, and preparing for the STR- and PCR-based workflow.”

This technology even allows DNA evidence to be applied in a wider range of cases (property crime cases, for instance) that would have previously been thought too minor to warrant processing DNA evidence.

“Development of an Innovative DNA Quantification and Assessment System: Streamlining Workflow Using Intelligent Tools” looks at the way next generation STR systems drive the need for improved quantification systems. Advances in STR kits allow them to provide higher discriminatory power and improved results from compromised samples.

As columnist Chris Asplen has discussed in previous issues, Rapid DNA is poised to transform DNA into an investigative tool, rather than mere inculpatory evidence to be brought in court. When a sample can be processed in just over an hour, DNA collected at the crime scene can be immediately compared to DNA in databases or that of suspects whose DNA was taken upon booking. As discussed in “DNA First”, when a myriad of samples are collected at the scene, Rapid DNA technology can allow the CSI to determine which samples have enough genetic material to warrant further analysis at the lab.

These new technologies will allow more DNA evidence to be processed more efficiently, reduce backlogs, and especially in the case of Next Generation Sequencing technologies, help process more complex samples. As we are all asked to do more with fewer resources, these new technologies offer a ray of light in a dark path forward.  

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