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Identifying a Suspect's Physical Characteristics with DNA
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A suspect who leaves DNA at a crime scene will not only have his genetic profile entered in a DNA database for a possible match, but scientists can now use the DNA to predict how the suspect appears. Predicting a person's physical traits from genetic information is a newly emerging field in forensics. Scientists have already developed methods for using DNA to identify traits such as age and eye color and are now working on methods to predict skin color and even facial dimensions.
Law enforcement have already used DNA at a crime scene to identify the ancestral roots of a suspect.  In 2004, during the investigation into the Madrid train bombings, scientists used DNA from a toothbrush to identify one of the suspects as North African 
in origin. Conventional DNA analysis later led police to a suspect, an Algerian man who is still at large.  And in the case of a Louisiana serial killer, eyewitness descriptions and psychological profiling initially directed police towards a white male suspect. But when DNA from a crime scene was analysed results showed the killer was probably African-American.
Further research into this area may yield new forensic tools to help identify unknown suspects from the DNA their profiles left crime scenes.

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