Monday, January 19, 2015
British police are now able to build up a detailed picture of a suspect from the smallest speck of blood left at a crime scene thanks to an extraordinary DNA breakthrough
New advances in the technology mean that detectives will know if an offender is black or white, the color of their hair and eyes, their height and age – even if there are no witnesses to the crime. Until now, investigators have only been able to match genetic material to records of criminals already in the national database, but the innovation will produce a "DNA photofit" describing the offender. Dr Denise Syndercombe-Court, a forensic genetics expert at King's College London, said: "The new technologies raise the possibility that we won't need an actual eyewitness to a crime in order to produce a picture of how the suspect looks. Instead, investigators will be able to generate a DNA photo detailing a suspect's characteristics, biological age and geographical ancestry." She said that the value to police is enormous in narrowing down the pool of suspects and eliminating the innocent. "We are now in the moment of glimpsing a brilliant new future of DNA analysis," she added. The breakthrough comes thanks to the Human Genome Project, which identified all the genes in human DNA, meaning that scientists can single out the sequences that determine individual characteristics. Academics and private companies are now developing tests that focus on individual areas such as eye color. In the past year, King's College London, working with the Metropolitan Police, has helped on a handful of criminal cases to identify the geographical background of suspects based on DNA samples. They are currently achieving success rates of more than 85%.