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DNA Profiling and Fingerprinting

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After Professor Jeffreys discovered the DNA fingerprint purely by accident in his laboratory in the 1980s, it quickly became an established tool for DNA profiling as well as DNA tests such as paternity tests and in the field of crime and forensics.

DNA Profiling

When DNA profiling was being established, hundreds of cases such as identifying bodies, helping crime investigations and immigration court battles landed on the Professor’s desk. DNA tests were carried out to identify high profile bodies, such as the murdered bodies of Tsar Nicholas and his family and the Nazi Josef Mengele. But it’s probably the world of crime that most captured the public’s imagination. And this has continued to the present day with crime shows such as CSI featuring testing DNA as routine in their fictional investigations to solve elaborate murder plots.

DNA Tests and Crime Scene Investigations

When two girls were raped and murdered in Leicestershire, Professor Jeffreys performed the first ever DNA profiling for a forensic case. Although a man had said he killed one of the girls, the tests proved he was innocent. As a result, DNA samples were gathered from men in the local area near to the murders so tests could be run to see if the samples matched those found on the victims. The killer was found and convicted and the reputation of DNA tests as a forensic tool established. There are thought to be around four million and rising DNA profiles on the national DNA database. Most of the profiles are convicted criminals or suspects – it means if investigators gather DNA samples from a crime scene, they can conduct tests to see if the perpetrator is on the database. It’s possible to get an instant match – crime solved. Although civil liberty groups have expressed concerns about the database, Professor Jeffreys believes it to be the most powerful crime investigation tool around.

The DNA Dude

And today, commercial DNA tests have become routine. It’s even possible to buy tests online to clarify issues of paternity or find out about your genetic ancestry. In the UK, 70% of all forensic tests are DNA based. Professor Jeffreys discovery and subsequent work in the field of DNA has changed the lives of thousands, if not millions, including helping long-term prisoners wrongly convicted to finally be pardoned after DNA tests provided conclusive evidence of their innocence. And the Professor’s penchant for surfing has inspired his nickname – ‘DNA Dude’.

The History of DNA

DNA may be a fairly recent discovery, but as long ago as the 19th century, scientists were investigating the genetic relationship. The discovery of the structure of DNA came about many decades later. Click here to read the full history of DNA.

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