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Will Forensic Biology Become Forensic Molecular Biology?

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
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The article presents some examples of the potential for new molecular biology technologies to assist in the investigation of crime.

Molecular biology has evolved far beyond that which could have been predicted at the time DNA identity testing was established. Indeed we should now perhaps be referring to "forensic molecular biology." Aside from DNA's established role in identifying the "who" in crime investigations, other developments in medical and developmental molecular biology are now ripe for application to forensic challenges. The impact of DNA methylation and other post-fertilization DNA modifications, plus the emerging role of small RNAs in the control of gene expression, is re-writing our understanding of human biology. It is apparent that these emerging technologies will expand forensic molecular biology to allow for inferences about "when" a crime took place and "what" took place. However, just as the introduction of DNA identity testing engendered many challenges, so the expansion of molecular biology into these domains will raise again the issues of scientific validity, interpretation, probative value, and infringement of personal liberties. This Commentary ponders some of these emerging issues, and presents some ideas on how they will affect the conduct of forensic molecular biology in the foreseeable future.

The article is published online in Frontiers in Genetics and is free to access.

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