26 Med. Sci. & L. 5 (1986)

handle is hein.journals/mdsclw26 and id is 1 raw text is: 



Med. Sci. Law (1986) Vol.26, No.1 Printedin Great Britain


Editorial-DNA Fingerprinting in Matters of Family and
Crime*


BARBARA E. DODD, MSc, PhD, DSc (London)
Emeritus Professor of Blood Serology, The London Hospital Medical College. London El 2AD


There has been a great deal of comment recently
in both the popular Press and in certain aca-
demic journals concerning the possible use of
DNA fingerprinting as a means of identifying
individuals, their parents and their offspring.
However, the excitement generated as a result
of newly-published research must be tempered
with the knowledge that much assessment still
needs to be done. This editorial, which was orig-
inally published in Nature (Vol. 318), discusses
the technique, and is based on the premise that
once proved the DNA fingerprinting technique
will revolutionize forensic biology.
  It has long been the ambition of the forensic
scientist to be able to identify the origin of
blood and body-fluid stains with the same
degree of certainty as fingerprints. And the
ability to settle cases of doubtful paternity with
absolute certainty in every case would be
equally welcome. The arrival of DNA finger-
printing-particularly as developed by Alec
Jeffreys et al. (1985) at Leicester University is a
big step towards the forensic scientist's goal in
both areas.
  As so often happens, the technique has arisen
from research that was not aimed specifically at
solving practical problems. Jeffreys had been
working on the short 'minisatellite' sequence of
DNA in an intron of the human myoglobin
gene. Using the now familiar methods of
Southern blotting and DNA hybridization he
found that the myoglobin minisatellite detected



*The editor is grateful to Nature for permission to
reproduce this article.


other human minisatellites, some of which are
highly polymorphic. The common features of
these minisatellites have been identified by
sequencing, and cloned DNA probes, based on
tandem repeats of the core sequences, have been
used to detect simultaneously several highly
variable genetic loci in the human genome. The
variability in the pattern of hands detected by
the probes is so rich that a hand pattern in
virtually unique for every individual, hence the
expression 'DNA fingerprinting'.
   Gill, Jeffreys and Werrett (1985) of the Home
Office Forensic Science Service report promis-
ing progress in applying DNA fingerprinting to
blood stains, semen stains and hair roots, show-
ing that DNA fingerprints obtained from these
sources were always identical to those of the
individuals from whom the material originated.
Especially rewarding were the results of DNA
fingerprints of sperm nuclei and their potential
for the identification of rapists. There are
conventional genetic markers in semen but
semen stains are frequently contaminated with
vaginal fluid, so that the origin of any markers
present is difficult or well-nigh impossible to
trace. Gill et al. (1985) have managed to isolate
sperm nuclei free from vaginal contamination
and have obtained a DNA fingerprint that is the
same as the donor of the sperm. Thus it should
be possible to match a DNA fingerprint of
sperm from, for example, a stain on a victim's
clothing with that of blood or sperm from a
suspect rapist. A chance match is virtually
eliminated because its probability is calculated
to be of the order of 3 x 10 -, or even less if
more than one probe is used. The technique,
however has yet to be tested and assessed for

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