The Implications of DNA Profiling Essay

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The Implications of DNA Profiling

Former attorney General Janet Reno described our system of justice as a search for the truth.(1) Increasingly, the forensic use of DNA technology is an important ally in that search. DNA fingerprinting, better known in the scientific realm as DNA profiling, has given police and the courts a means of identifying the perpetrators of rapes and murders with a very high degree of confidence. However, nine years after its introduction, forensic DNA typing is still used only selectively. This is due to a variety of factors, including the unavailability of forensic typing to local prosecutors, the time required to perform the typing, and the costs of the tests if private laboratories are utilized. Formerly
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Sometimes, this can be a difference of just one base pair. These differences are called polymorphisms and are the key to DNA typing.(3)

There are many sources of DNA for testing. Blood is one of the key sources, though the surface on which a bloodstain is found can profoundly affect the ability to successfully perform an analysis. In addition, bloodstains may be mixtures of blood from two different people and can produce DNA profiles that are more complex than those from a single individual. Ironically, DNA profiling may be the only way to determine if a given stain is a mixture. Semen stains are the most common evidence to be submitted for DNA analysis, which is not surprising since the cases in which DNA testing has been used the most often are rapes. DNA can also be extracted from tissues (taken at autopsy), hair roots, saliva, and in rare instances, urine.(4) It is important to note that only a miniscule amount of DNA is needed for analysis. For example, the amount of DNA found at the root of one hair is usually sufficient. Environmental factors also play a role in determining whether a particular sample of DNA can be utilized. Moisture, sunlight, bacterial action and heat are detrimental to the DNA. Depending on the intensity and combination of these conditions, survival of the DNA is measured in weeks or months. Even so, DNA in usable amounts can
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