Technology has become an incredible power factor for law enforcement agencies around the world, and they are exploring ways to make the most of it to make the world a safer place. In the effort, Australian federal police say they are using advanced DNA sequencing technology to predict the physical appearance of potential suspects. The technology, also known as massive parallel sequencing, uses the DNA left by criminals at crime scenes. Using this, law enforcement agencies will be able to predict the suspect’s gender, biogeographic ancestry, eye color, etc., even if there is no matching record in the police database.
Experts see it as a game-changing technology in the hands of forensic teams, but they are also concerned about its potential use for racial profiling, personal and genetic privacy. Human DNA is 99.9 percent identical and only 0.1 percent differences make each of us genetically distinct from each other. During a crime scene investigation, forensic experts rely on this 0.1 percent difference to identify or locate suspects.
“This new approach tells you something about the individual … the outward features,” Adrian Linacre, professor of forensic DNA technology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, told The Guardian. The technology is capable of sequencing “millions of bits of DNA at once,” he added.
But this technology is still evolving. Investigating the crime scene is a complex task and most of the items found there are a mixture of DNA of two or three people, Linakre said. In this situation, he added, traditional DNA profiling techniques work well but using new MPS technology can lead to irregular results. “We have not yet been able to develop really good software programs to deconstruct huge parallel sequencing data.”
Australian Federal Police forensics chief scientist. Paul Rafi said the agency aims to expand its forecast to include age, body mass index and height.