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article imageGenetic ancestry databases can be used to solve crimes

By Tim Sandle     Oct 13, 2018 in Crime
A research group have developed a computational model that links family members by using genealogical and law-enforcement databases. Through this it is possible to use the data to solve some crimes.
The application of genetic ancestry databases to solve crimes has generally been theoretical. However, the re-opening of an historic case showed how the hypothetical can cross over to the credible. Recently a U.S. police force used an online genealogical database to track down the alleged Golden State Killer, who was a serial criminal operating in California during the 1970s and 1980s.
The Golden State Killer was a serial killer, rapist, and burglar who committed at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 to 1986. According to The Verge, a search through a public DNA database allowed criminologists to select 10 to 15 possible distant relatives of the suspected killer. This data then allowed the police to narrow down a suspect list and provide them with the lead they needed and arrest the suspect - Joseph James DeAngelo.
A new study indicates who this form of genetic research can be expanded. This is based on research backed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Justice. The research appears in the journal Cell, titled "Statistical Detection of Relatives Typed with Disjoint Forensic and Biomedical Loci."
According to lead researcher Noah Rosenberg, a biology professor at Stanford University: "In this study, we were trying to pose the question of whether a newer, more modern system of genetic markers could be tested against the old system and still get matches and find relatives."
The research found a way to cross-checking two types of genetic databases: the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), whch is used by the FBI, and ancestry databases. The CODIS database relies on short tandem repeat (STR) markers, a type of copy-number variation, in noncoding regions of the DNA. In contrast ancestry databases look for differences in single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across hundreds of thousands of sites in the genome. Professor Rosenberg and his team have developed software that can cross-check two disparate databases - something that will assist with crime detection.
More about Genetics, ancestry databases, Genes, Crime
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