Using kin's DNA to find criminals focus of study

May 12, 2006

The use of DNA kinship analysis methods could be an effective tool in helping to identify potential criminal suspects, but there are also legal and policy implications of doing so.

We may not be our brother's keeper, but our brother's DNA could help land us in jail, according to a new report by researchers at University of California, Berkeley; Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; and Harvard University.

"Finding Criminals Through DNA of their Relatives," published yesterday (Thursday, May 11) in ScienceExpress, the advance online version of the journal Science, shows that investigators could reap a significant boost in leads if they were to use DNA kinship analysis methods to search offender DNA databases to aid in locating potential criminal suspects. While kinship analysis is routinely used for such purposes as identifying decomposed corpses based on the DNA of relatives, up to now it has only been used informally and yielded sporadic results in criminal investigations.

"Kinship searching of the offender database can help catch a novice criminal, who is not himself in the database, through his brother or father who is a cataloged offender," says Charles Brenner, a visiting scholar in the Forensic Science Group at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and one of the authors of the report. "If this method were implemented systematically, it could have many successes, but potentially debatable implications."

The reliability of using these methods, along with a discussion of the legal and policy issues involved, are in the ScienceExpress report.

The article is co-authored by Charles Brenner, Frederick R. Bieber, a medical geneticist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and David Lazer, director of the Program on Networked Governance and associate professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Source: of California, Berkeley, by Liese Greensfelder

Explore further: Saving the slow loris

Related Stories

Saving the slow loris

July 14, 2015

In the forest canopies of Vietnam lives a cryptic creature called the slow loris. It's steady, solitary and downright adorable, with tiny, fuzzy round ears and the impossibly large eyes common to nocturnal animals.

Evolution study finds massive genome shift in one generation

June 15, 2015

A team of biologists from Rice University, the University of Notre Dame and three other schools has discovered that an agricultural pest that began plaguing U.S. apple growers in the 1850s likely did so after undergoing extensive ...

Beyond human: Exploring transhumanism

November 25, 2014

What do pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, Iron Man and flu vaccines all have in common? They are examples of an old idea that's been gaining in significance in the last several decades: transhumanism. The word denotes a set of ...

Questioning GMOs

November 7, 2014

Are genetically engineered foods safe? Truth is, we probably don't know. "The scientific debate is not resolved, even though many people are claiming it is," says Sheldon Krimsky, the Lenore Stern Professor of Humanities ...

Recommended for you

Short wavelength plasmons observed in nanotubes

July 28, 2015

The term "plasmons" might sound like something from the soon-to-be-released new Star Wars movie, but the effects of plasmons have been known about for centuries. Plasmons are collective oscillations of conduction electrons ...

'Expansion entropy': A new litmus test for chaos?

July 28, 2015

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? This intriguing hypothetical scenario, commonly called "the butterfly effect," has come to embody the popular conception of a chaotic system, in which ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.