Forensic identification is the identification of any type of organism by studying the DNA sequences that are individual to that species only. For identification of individuals forensic scientists study 13 DNA loci or regions which vary from one individual to another.
From this data, is created a DNA profile of a particular individual which is sometimes referred to as a DNA fingerprint. The odds of another person having an identical fingerprint with 13 variable parameters are extremely remote.
There are several methods of DNA analysis, one of which is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis. Certain samples of DNA do not lend themselves to analysis by RFLP or STR which is where mtDNA analysis comes into play. mtDNA analysis relies on DNA extracted from a cellular organelle named a mitochondrion. mtDNA can analyze older biological samples like hair, bones and teeth that lack nucleated cellular material. mtDNA analysis is found indispensable in cases that remain unsolved for several years.
Because the mother’s egg cell is the source of mitochondria of each new embryo, all mothers and daughter have identical mitochondrial DNA. The father’s contribution through sperm is only of nuclear DNA. A vital technique in missing person investigations is a comparison of an mtDNA profile from unidentified remains with that of a possible maternal relative.
Identification of the victims of the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center disaster was one of the most formidable challenges in modern DNA forensic identification. The sheer numbers posed an overwhelming problem. Finally 20000 samples of human remains were received for analysis. The study came to an end in 2005 with about 50 percent of the victims identified through DNA analysis.
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