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Investigative genetics

4 November 2015

Postdoctoral Research Associate Mark Barash is analysing thousands of specific ‘bits’ of DNA that are responsible for the differences in the way we look, for example the size and shape of the nose, eyes, ears, eye lids, ear lobes, or our pigmentation

Postdoctoral Research Associate Mark Barash is analysing thousands of specific ‘bits’ of DNA that are responsible for the differences in the way we look, for example the size and shape of the nose, eyes, ears, eye lids, ear lobes, or our pigmentation. Photo by: Shane Lo.

Imagine being able to create a real portrait of a person using a DNA sample. It sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, but new research in the Centre for Forensic Science is turning science fiction into reality. The implications for identifying victims of natural disasters and unsolved crimes are enormous.

During the last 25 years the use of DNA profiling has absolutely revolutionised forensic investigation. It has provided an unprecedented level of sensitivity, specificity and statistical significance.

The current use of human DNA for the purpose of inpidual identification relies strictly on comparative grounds – DNA profiles obtained from crime scene material are compared with those of known potential suspects or in the case of paternity, with the alleged father. Similarly, in mass disaster or missing person cases, DNA profiles obtained from an unknown person are compared with those of known relatives, or with direct reference samples from items belonging to the missing person.

Read the full story in the Newsroom.