Feeds

Forensics wield new DNA weapon

DNAboost to cold cases

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The Forensic Science Service (FSS) is piloting a DNA technique it says could lead to countless unsolved criminal investigations being reopened.

The technique has already been useful in current investigations numbering in double figures, The Register has learned.

DNAboost is a piece of software which it's hoped will help forensics interpret genetic sequences from mixed samples. Incidents where minimal cell fragments are collected or have been degraded present difficulties distinguishing between individuals.

The FSS says its tests on DNAboost have shown it could improve DNA profile yield by as much as 40 per cent, and detection rates by 15 per cent. The possibility is for thousands of "cold" cases being supplied with new leads, the FSS reckons. DNAboost-resolved samples could identify multiple users of a weapon in more cases, for example.

DNA manager Paul Hackett said: "We've been able to demonstrate an increased rate of interpretation even in those areas that have proved traditionally most difficult – fragments of cellular submissions."

The technology behind DNAboost is based on a simple idea. Rather than compare a mixed sample to every profile in a database, the DNAboost algorithm turns the problem on its head, turning it into a process of elimination. There are 20 data points in a DNA profile, for a sample from more than one individual trials showed the program would quickly return the right number of matching profiles.

FSS consultant forensic scientist Dr Tim Clayton, who works with DNAboost, described the lateral thinking at its foundation as "beautifully simple, like all the best ideas".

Despite this apparent simplicity, the FSS is claiming a world first on the application.

DNA boost is being trialled by the FSS for four police forces on their local DNA repositories: West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Northumbria and Humberside.

A government-owned limited company, the FSS hopes to roll out DNAboost to all of its police force customers. The service is in negotiations with the Home Office for access to the National DNA Database, the world's largest database of human DNA profiles.

The new technique does nothing to broaden the reach of the National DNA Database, which civil liberties groups criticise for retaining DNA from individuals who have never been charged or prosecuted. If anything it may help quieten calls within government and law enforcement for the database to be expanded, as current data should be better utilised. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.