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Fast track DNA fingerprints

Australian researchers claim to have refined a technique that will revolutionize forensics.

Leigh Dayton(leighdayton@ozemail.com.au)

As forensic experts struggle to identify the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Bali, researchers in Australia announced at a science forum last week that they have refined and tested a DNA fingerprint procedure that will leave conventional techniques in the dust.

According to team leader Ian Findlay of the Australian Genome Research Facility (AGRF), located at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, the new system is nearly twice as fast as conventional DNA fingerprint technology. Moreover, profiles are derived from DNA contained in a single cell — existing procedures require at least 500 cells.

Findlay claims his team can crank out 1,000 samples a day — most laboratories manage a few dozen — and each to a specificity of ten billion to one. "That's better than the population of the planet and probably everyone who's ever been on the planet," said Findlay, a medical geneticist.

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