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Blog Posted in avatar   Michael Palmer's Blog

The importance of conducting DNA tests correctly

By Michael Palmer
Posted Oct 18, 2012 in Science
As courts increasingly demand DNA testing as part of their evidence it is becoming essential that samples collected are gathered in a sterile and secure environment. One of the most significant factors affecting DNA is that fact it degrades quickly.
There are two main uses for DNA testing; forensic in crime scene analysis and genealogy for paternity or genetic disorder tests. Huge advances have been made in DNA testing over the last twenty years and continued research promises to reveal even more information about our genetic makeup in the years to come. In crime scene scenarios forensic officers are faced with the challenge of an aging crime-scene. Gathering DNA samples as quickly as possible whilst ensuring they are stored securely and properly are vital if evidence is to be admissible in court.
The state of the crime scene can affect the quality of the DNA; damp and warm conditions increase the degrading process and result in samples being unfit for use. If RFLP methods are needed large quantities of DNA have to be collected, it is for this reason that PCR DNA testing is increasing in popularity. PCR testing has its limitations and is susceptible to contamination both in the lab and the crime scene itself. It is vital that laboratories have rigorous procedures for handling DNA and stringent controls in place for reducing contamination.
Failure to adhere to these kinds of guidelines can result in contaminants increasing by up to a billion times. It has been documented that DNA results can be compromised significantly if DNA is allowed to become contaminated. Forensics' have been transformed with the advances in DNA testing and resulted in far more convictions. The development of so-called DNA profiling or fingerprinting was evolved in the 1980's. This incredible technique made it possible via simple tests to link criminals with high degrees of accuracy to their crimes. It has also made it possible for false convictions to be overturned in the court with old evidence being re-examined and new tests applied. There are number of old cases which have been successfully reopened and closed as a result of advances in DNA testing.
Another area where DNA testing has proved invaluable in courts is paternity testing. This simple test can determine the biological father of a child. As DNA research continues it is also being used to uncover medical history and ethnic heritage which can be useful for adopted children and other genetic inherited diseases.
As the demand for DNA testing grows the need for regulated and properly managed labs becomes essential. As courts rely more on DNA evidence for convictions, storing and using the gathered cells must be done to a high standard to prevent contamination. With this explosion of DNA testing more courts are opting to use approved labs for admissible evidence.
Using approved centres will ensure there are high standards, reduce the potential for contamination and maintain confidence in the judiciary system that DNA evidence is both accurate and sound. This has led to the concept of court approved DNA testing, which ensures that these high standards are applied to all DNA tests that are provided as evidence during court trials. It seems likely that DNA testing will continue to form a vital part of evidence in criminal investigations for the foreseeable future.

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