Technology used to evaluate and identify DNA recovered from crime scenes has led to countless arrests and convictions since the very first DNA based conviction in the 1987 trial of Florida rapist Tommie Lee Andrews. Since then, the technology has continued to change and develop, modifying existing laboratory methods in the hopes of creating more accurate DNA profiles.
Thanks to the University of Adelaide postgraduate student Janette Edson, that technology continues to advance, specifically as it relates to hair. According to researchers from the Australian university, using human hair to profile criminals can be a difficult process. Human hair is significantly dehydrated as a part of the growth process, eliminating much of the DNA that might be useful to crime scene investigators.
Edson, while carrying out a genetic analysis of hundreds of human hairs collected from donors, was able to develop new techniques that vastly improved both the accuracy of the DNA testing and lower the cost.
While Edson does not go into detail as to how exactly this is carried out, the lead-author of her project Assistant Professor Jeremy Austin seems confident that the results will lead to significant change in the way hair is analyzed.
“Existing methods to obtain and interpret DNA profiles from shed human hairs are expensive and often unsuccessful,” says Austin, “Our research shows that we can retrieve DNA profiles from shed human hairs that contain trace amounts of DNA without compromising the accuracy of our results.”
More importantly, other members of the project postulate that the modifications used in research could allow a standard forensic laboratory to analyze hair based DNA with their standard equipment, reducing both the time and the cost of profiling hair samples.
This information will hopefully be found to be applicable in real world scenarios and used to help crime scene investigators all over the world quickly and accurately profile DNA.