Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Forensic Science & Clinical Toxicology
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

A New World of Forensic Analysis

Published: Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Bookmark and Share
UTS forensic biology expert Peter Gunn believes that RNA analysis has the potential to reveal much more from a crime scene sample than DNA.

Over the past 20 years DNA evidence has become the foundation upon which forensic investigation is built. The identification of traces of blood, saliva and other bodily fluids places a suspect directly at the site of a crime, and can be the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict in court.

But as new identification technologies emerge at an ever quickening pace, new questions are being raised as to not only the efficacy of these technologies, but also their implications on privacy, civil liberties and validity.

A recent assessment published by UTS Associate Professor of Forensic Biology Peter Gunn has attempted to grapple with these complex issues. "The nucleic acid revolution continues – will forensic biology become forensic molecular biology?" has become one of the most read articles of the Frontiers in Genetics March edition.

Professor Gunn, head of the Forensic Biology program at UTS and the first person in the Southern Hemisphere to do in-house DNA testing in a criminal case, says that while DNA provides an accurate biological profile, it's unable to provide further information to forensic teams on matters like physical or health characteristics.

Newer technologies, such as the analysis of variable nucleic acids within cells ("epigenetics"), offer much more in the way of information – and in his report, co-authored with UTS's Claude Roux and Simon Walsh of the Australian Federal Police, Gunn said these emerging technologies will allow for further inferences into the nature and perpetrator of a crime.

"We start to tell not just who was the person,for example, but we can start to tell the characteristics of that person. That includes their ethnicity, their eye and hair colour, what sort of diseases they may be carrying, what sort of background they may have, are they smokers, are they overweight and the like," Professor Gunn said.

"So the potential is there to build a picture of a person who left material at the scene of a crime other than just a DNA profile."

This is done through investigation of the RNA makeup within a cell, as distinct from DNA evidence. While DNA is like a "master blueprint" of a person's genetic code, RNA – ribonucleic acid – is described by Gunn as like "working copies" of that blueprint.

"In different cells in your body, different parts of your DNA are being used by the working copies of RNA. And those RNA copies are actually controlling what's happening in the cells," he said.

"But each cell has its own expression of RNA, dependent on what its job in the body is, and they tell you much more about what's happening at the working level of the person."

However, the use of nucleic acid technologies still remains rather challenging in a criminal context. While DNA is now long-established as a verifiable form of evidence, newer technologies are yet to attain the requisite levels of scientific and judicial acceptance to stand up in a court of law.

As well as this, the concerns of civil libertarians have been raised regarding the collection of genetic information that has the potential for racial or health profiling.

Gunn said that, looking forward, making nucleic acid evidence verifiable – and allaying the concerns of privacy commissioners – will be a priority.

"These will probably never be the routine methods used by investigators, they'll always be specialist investigations. But the challenge is to make them robust enough that they can be defended in court, can be presented with confidence, and can be defended successfully."

The article, DNA, statistics and the law: a cross-disciplinary approach to forensic inference, can be accessed online.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,400+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
World’s Oldest Human Footprints Investigated
Bournemouth University researchers investigate world’s oldest human footprints with software designed to decode crime scenes.
Beating the Backlog in Criminal Investigations
Andrew Sheldon, Chief Technical Officer at UK Digital Forensics specialists Evidence Talks, says there is a way to beat the backlog in processing digital evidence.
Bringing the Lab to the Crime Scene
Developing a miniature mass spectrometer to allow instant analysis of evidence.
Forensic Botany Uses Plant DNA to Trace Crimes
Sam Houston State University is advancing the field of forensic botany with the publication of two recent studies that use marijuana DNA to link drug supplies and pollen DNA to aid in forensic investigations.
First Gene for Grey Hair Found
The first gene identified for greying hair has been discovered by an international UCL-led study, confirming greying has a genetic component and is not just environmental. - See more at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0316/010316-first-grey-hair-gene-discovered#sthash.gD0shNNC.dpuf
Determining 'Patterns' for Bones Left on Ground Surfaces
For the first time, researchers have determined a signature of changes that occur to human remains, specifically bones, left outside in the New England environment.
Forensics Close in on Footwear Analysis
First it was your fingerprint that gave the game away and then DNA analysis transformed forensic science. But ‘watch your step’ because an expert in the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Nottingham has developed a new technique which could lead to a ‘step change’ in forensic footwear imaging.
Characterizing the Smell of Death
New research reveals the odor profile of decaying bodies.
New Forensic Methods for Human DNA Cases
Sam Houston State University was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Justice to develop and test the best possible sample preparation methods for skeletal and decomposing human remains using emerging, next-generation DNA technology to identify missing persons or victims of mass disasters.
Portable Kit Can Recover Traces of Chemical Evidence
A chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a portable version of his method for recovering trace chemicals such as environmental pollutants and forensic evidence including secret graves and arson fire debris.
SELECTBIO

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,400+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!