DNA fingerprinting is a method used to identify an individual from a sample of DNA by looking at unique patterns in their DNA.
HOW DOES DNA FINGERPRINTING WORK?
- Get a DNA sample.
- Restriction enzymes cut DNA into thousands of pieces with different lengths.
- Pieces of DNA then separated according to size by gel electrophoresis.
- Once DNA is sorted, the pieces are transferred out of the gel to a piece of nylon membrane and then ‘unzipped’ to get single strands of DNA.
- Nylon membrane incubated with radioactive probes.
- Mini satellites that probes attached to are visualized by exposing nylon membrane to X-ray film. When exposed to radioactivity, a pattern of over 30 dark bands appear on the film where the labelled DNA was. This is the DNA fingerprint. To compare 2 or more DNA fingerprints, the different samples are run side by side on the same electrophoresis gel.
WHY IS DNA FINGERPRINTING IMPORTANT?
- Paternity tests - sections of DNA are passed down from parents to children, so tests can be done to tell who the father of a child is.
- Forensics - can determine whether a suspect is innocent or guilty with a DNA sample.
- Agriculture and other areas - used for identification (to know if a seed is really from the variety being claimed). Also used to detect GMOs.
PROBLEMS WITH DNA FINGERPRINTING
1. One limitation of DNA fingerprinting is the possibility for human error that could result in inaccurate data.
2. Another problem with DNA fingerprinting is that the sample can be easily ruined. The tiniest piece of foreign material can render the sample useless.
3. DNA Fingerprinting is limited and a new process known as PCR is much more effective. The results are much faster. This method uses smaller samples of DNA and as a result produces better results.
ETHICAL ISSUES WITH DNA
I. DNA databases are attributed with the analysis of the general population. The compilation of the general file of the population can be an issue as innocent people could be arrested or charged with a crime they did not commit.
Justice Sedley, a senior appeal court Judge gave a university at the University of Leicester went as far as to say there is a need for a separate DNA register that separates known criminals from innocent people.
A. Information about an individual’s genome provides private endogenous future that can show one's current and future health.
B. Misuse of DNA for family balancing without informed consent or using the information for family searching; the process of identifying relatives of a known subject.
C. Another ethical issue is how the samples are handled and who has access to them. Some feel that DNA fingerprinting should only be used by law enforcement to figure out if someone has committed a crime and how there are potential dangers if the information was used to identify if someone is vulnerable to illness.
D. There is also argument over whether or not it is ethical to have a National DNA Database in countries like Britain. And how DNA fingerprinting could play a role in racial profiling in the areas of immigration.
- Justice Sedley, a senior appeal court Judge gave a university at the University of Leicester went as far as to say there is a need for a separate DNA register that separates known criminals from innocent people.
SUMMARY: There are many ethical concerns that have been raised regarding DNA Fingerprinting. One common tie between all of these concerns is the information itself. DNA profiles contain important information about a person’s characteristics and there likelihood to develop disease.