Forensicscience is more than just what you see on television and read in criminal novels.There are dozens of people who are involved in a criminal investigation andthere’s a significant need for individuals with specialized skills andtraining. With so many sub-disciplines to choose from, the field of forensicscience offers a virtually limitless number of career paths to students who areinterested in the mechanics of crime-solving.One such developingfield is Forensic Molecular Genetics. The first use of DNA in forensic sciencewas to identify the perpetrator of a murder in 1985, since then, forensicscience has witnessed dramatic changes in the field of human identification.
Overthe past 25 years advances in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) technology have ledto spectacularly precise forensic identification techniques. Current work inforensic genetics is pushing these technologies even further by analyzingextremely damaged DNA and by introducing RNA (ribonucleic acid) techniques toforensics. Currently, millions of samples from blood, semen, hair and tissues etcare analyzed to determine their origin. Whiletraditional forensic molecular genetics has been oriented towards using humanDNA in criminal investigation and civil court cases, it currently presents amuch wider application range.
At present forensic molecular genetics isprogressively incorporating the analysis of nonhuman genetic materials such asother animal species, plants or microorganism to a greater extent, providingancillary evidence in criminalistics in cases such as animal attacks,trafficking of species, bioterrorism and biocrimes, and identification offraudulent food composition, among many others. With theexception of monozygotic twins, every individual has a different genome. Forensicmolecular genetics primarily uses DNA Fingerprinting for the production of aunique DNA profile for every person. PCR enhances the process by helping in theamplification of minutest of DNA samples. Further advancements include new DNAisolation methods, Y-chromosome haplogrouping (indicating “male” DNA in a mixedsample seen usually in sexual assault cases), mitochondrial DNA analysis (whichis inherited along the same maternal line), analysis of SNPs in place of STRsfor degraded samples obtained from disaster sites, use of automated sequencersand DNA databases etc. New genetic markers being tested include mRNA and miRNAs,as they are much smaller in size, thus less prone to degradation. Thus,relying on these methods pedigree analysis, determination ofpaternity/maternity, victim and suspect identification, and most importantlyexoneration of the innocent becomes highly accurate and ensures justice forall.