Twins Foil DNA Forensic Test

Tim WelchBy Tim Welch

On January 25, 2009, masked intruders stole about €5 million worth of jewelry and watches from an upscale department store in Berlin, Germany.   Surveillance cameras caught the crime on tape, and police found a glove containing identifiable DNA at the scene.   After the DNA was analyzed, the police were surprised to find that the DNA was linked to two men with criminal records, a pair of German twins identified as Hassan and Abbas O.   The twins were arrested on February 11, 2009.

Despite the DNA evidence, German police were forced to release Hassan and Abbas O. on March 18, 2009 because their DNA codes are virtually indistinguishable from each other using analysis methods accepted in German courts.   According to a Times Online report, "German law stipulates that each suspect must be individually proven guilty of a crime."   Since the DNA could not point to a specific suspect, German authorities were forced set the twins free.

Handheld Laboratories? Ability to Conduct “Instant DNA Tests,” Could Be Available to Physicians, Crime Scene Investigators

Tim WelchBy Tim Welch

The ability to conduct DNA tests in the palm of your hand might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but the technology could be available for widespread use sooner than you thought.  Research scientists at the University of Virginia are developing a device about the size of a microscope slide that could pave the way for handheld DNA tests that would produce results in minutes, perhaps eliminating the need for a central laboratory.  Such devices could be crucial to doctors in diagnosing infectious diseases in minutes rather than days, as well as to crime scene investigators in gathering forensic information on scene.  While handheld DNA tests would have many useful applications, they would also raise important questions.

If doctors were able to receive DNA test results in minutes, rather than wait days to hear back from a laboratory, their response time in diagnosing and treating infectious diseases would be shortened dramatically.  This would be extremely useful with diseases that worsen quickly when left untreated, such as meningitis.  In addition, a cheap and effective handheld DNA test could reduce the cost of treating patients with "personalized medicine," or a therapeutic regime based on a patient’s own genetic code.

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