Ottawa University Heart Institute researcher Maria Viaznikova has developed a fast easy way to extract DNA from fingerprints for sequencing.
Viaznikova said her team's method consistently yields 10 billionths of a gram of DNA, on average, from a single fingerprint. The findings were revealed at the American Society for Microbiology's nanotechnology conference in New York earlier this month. Although 10 "nanograms" might not sound like much, for DNA analysis, even 0.1 nanogram is enough, Viaznikova said. "Scientists try not to use less than 5 to 10 nanograms, so this is fine." She said forensic scientists have known for about five years that fingerprints contain DNA. However, commonly used extraction techniques need several hours or even days of lab work. "We can do it in 15 minutes," she added.
The article quotes experts who want restrictions on when government agencies can sequence a person's DNA with required notifications to tell a person their DNA is being sequenced. But these kinds of demands miss a very important point: once DNA sequencing becomes cheap and easy enough to be done by devices that can be operated by a single individual who has no special skills it will be impossible to discover the bulk of sequencing that will be done.
See my previous posts Will The Death Of Genetic Privacy Hasten The End Of Freedom? and Genetic privacy: can it be protected? for more on the implications of advances of this kind. What already seems naive about my previous posts is that I speculated on how women would try to get saliva samples or other cell samples from close contact with guys in order to get DNA samples. Well, getting a DNA sample will be easier than that. It will be easy to get a DNA sample from any person seen holding a drink in a bar. When they get up to leave someone could walk by and grab one of their drinking glasses to take a quick sample off of it. The person trying to get the sample never even has to meet their quarry. Combine the ease of sample acquisition and cheap DNA sequencing and personal genetic privacy will become impossible to maintain.
This ability to sequence another's DNA is going to have interesting ramifications for paternity suits. A woman will be able to stalk a guy by going to the same bar or restaurant, grab a glass he held, get a sample, and then sequence the guy's DNA. The woman can then judge the suitability of the guy's DNA. If he passes muster in terms of what she wants in a child she will also be able to use the DNA sample to have it be manipulated in a microfluidic device to make a viable set of chromosomes to use in artificial fertilization. Then she'll be able to sue for paternity. Will courts hold men responsible for offspring when the men start claiming they never even met the women who sue them for paternity?
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 August 13 10:43 AM Biotech Society|