Forensic science service set to boost crime detection

Scientists at the Forensic Science Service have developed a technique to obtain a DNA profile from mixed or poor quality samples which police forces had previously had to disregard as useless.

The technique, called DNAboost, is a breakthrough technology which allows scientists to analyse a mixed sample, which arises when several people have touched the same item, such as a door handle or a car steering wheel. Previously, the DNA in these samples could not be unscrambled and so was impossible to interpret.

Evidence stored from cold cases, which had yielded weak profiles, not statistically strong enough to be searched against the National DNA Database, could now be revisited to obtain a much clearer indication of the perpetrator – intelligence which the police could take forward to help them bring to justice many criminals who had long evaded detection.

The Forensic Science Service believes that the use of DNAboost in certain circumstances could deliver a 25 per cent increase in the number of DNA profiles (from mixed or complex samples) which can be searched against the NDNAD providing the police with vital intelligence for both serious and violent crimes.

The introduction of DNAboost is the biggest step change in DNA analysis and interpretation since the Forensic Science Service developed Low Copy Number DNA, which allowed scientists to obtain a DNA profile from minute samples of cellular material.

The use of the DNAboost and Low Copy Number techniques together could hold the key to unlock countless cold cases that have lain dormant in files for many years.

The Forensic Science Service is the market leader in the provision of forensic science, offering a range of analysis and interpretation tools second to none, from footprints to forged signatures.

Using pioneering computer-based interpretation systems, the FSS can already handle in excess of 10,000 DNA crime stain samples each month and currently loads around 50,000 DNA samples from individuals to the database annually. The throughput enables the company to complete as much analysis in one week as near European neighbours might be able to achieve in a year.