Fast forensic test can match suspects' DNA with crime samples in 4 hours

August 4, 2010
Crime-solving may get a boost using a new test that can match suspects' DNA with that of samples from crime scenes in just four hours. Credit: iStock

A newly developed test could make checking DNA from people arrested for crimes with DNA samples from crime scenes stored in forensic databases almost as easy as matching fingerprints. With the test, police could check on whether a person's DNA matches that found at past crime scenes while suspects are still being processed and before a decision on whether to release them on bail. A report on the fast forensic test appears in the ACS' Analytical Chemistry.

Andrew Hopwood, Frederic Zenhausern, and colleagues explain that some are arrested, spend less than a day in jail, and then commit crimes while they are out on bail. If police could quickly test the suspects' DNA, to see if their matches entries in crime databases, they may be able to keep the most dangerous people locked up. But currently, most genetic tests take 24-72 hours, and by the time that the results are back, the suspects often have been released.

To increase the speed of forensic DNA testing, the scientists built a chip that can copy and analyze taken from a cotton swab. Forensic technicians can collect DNA from suspects by swabbing their mouth, mixing the sample with a few chemicals, and warming it up. The DNA-testing-lab-on-a-chip does the rest. The entire process takes only four hours at present. Hopwood and Zenhausern teams are already optimizing it and reducing the cycle time down to two hours. Once that is done, police could even double-check their DNA evidence before releasing a suspect.

Explore further: Study: DNA may predict criminals' surnames

More information: "Integrated Microfluidic System for Rapid Forensic DNA Analysis: Sample Collection to DNA Profile", Analytical Chemistry.

Related Stories

Study: DNA may predict criminals' surnames

February 22, 2006

British researchers say forensic scientists might soon be using DNA from crime scenes to predict the surname of the criminal responsible for the crime.

DNA pioneer appeals for cuts to criminal database

September 10, 2009

(AP) -- Like so many great discoveries, it was an accident. British scientist Alec Jeffreys realized 25 years ago Thursday that individuals have "DNA fingerprints," unique patterns of genetic material that can be used to ...

Addressing the DNA Backlog

July 13, 2010

( -- Valerie Neumann was drugged and raped in 2006, but the DNA her attacker left behind is still untested. Her case is not unusual.

Recommended for you

The universe's most miraculous molecule

October 9, 2015

It's the second most abundant substance in the universe. It dissolves more materials than any other solvent. It stores incredible amounts of energy. Life as we know it would not be possible without it. And although it covers ...

New approach for 'nanohoops' could energize future devices

October 12, 2015

When Ramesh Jasti began making tiny organic circular structures using carbon atoms, the idea was to improve carbon nanotubes being developed for use in electronics or optical devices. He quickly realized, however, that his ...


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.