Genetic fingerprinting

Genetic fingerprinting or mapping helps us differentiate between two human beings and has various applications: forensic medicine, family relationship tests, compatibility tests for organ donation or even to generate hypotheses regarding human migration in prehistoric times. Genetic fingerprinting is very useful in providing families with a genetic ID which could be used to prove the relationship between biological parents and adopted children or to identify people without documentation.

At the same time, genetic mapping can help in the research to fight illnesses such as genetic diseases, tumours, muscular dystrophy, or dermatologic problems.

What is genetic fingerprinting?

DNA contains the necessary information for the development of living beings. Individuals from the same species share a large part of the DNA sequence, but there are certain highly variable areas that are specific to each subject. These areas of the genome are called polymorphisms or genetic markers and they are used to identify individuals as two unrelated human beings are extremely unlikely to have the same genetic markers in common. The group of polymorphisms specific to each person is known as their genetic profile.

The individual genetic profile makes it possible to differentiate easily between individuals (except for monozygotic twins who share the same DNA sequencing) and identifies a person the same as or even better than fingerprints do. It is for this reason that it is referred to as a genetic fingerprint or map. The main advantage is that it is much more precise than other methods of identification. In addition, DNA is present in each and every cell of the human body and so can be retrieved from any biological sample. A genetic fingerprint is unique and unchanging throughout one’s life.

In the following we have outlined some of the situations where this type of study would be useful:

  • Adopted children or children conceived via assisted reproduction techniques using donated gametes. In these cases the children do not share the same genetic code as their parents so for biological identification purposes a study of the parents’ DNA would be useless.
  • To provide a genetic profile: For identification purposes in the case of accidents, fires, disasters or situations where there is doubt to a person’s identity.
  • To provide a standard or reference for the comparison and identification of individuals working in high-risk professions. For example, military personnel, firefighters or police officers.
  • To provide information for family relationship tests.

Finally, as a complimentary service once the genetic fingerprint has been obtained, the DNA itself can be stored for future use:

  • Diagnosis of diagnosed genetic illnesses.
  • Prevention of hereditary genetic illnesses.
  • Solving family relationship disputes.

Frequently Asked Questions

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