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DNA Fingerprinting

Orange County Sheriff Forensic Science ocsdfss at netcom.com
Sun Jul 31 18:22:34 EST 1994

<U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu> writes:

>I just read a very interesting book called "DNA Fingerprinting" by
>Christopher Lampton.

>It's nice and easy reading for the layman in explaining the
>technique and it's very interesting history.  It also covers the
>main points of the debate on this technique as used by the
>courts.... from the Castro case, Frye analysis, and possible
>contamination problems (as well as a problem of "band-shifting").

>I think *the* single most interesting piece of information offered
>in the book was in reference to the two main companies which
>preformed this technique for the various court cases - Lifecodes
>and Cellmark.  In the earlier cases where the DNA Fingerprinting
>was thrown out, 'sloppy' lab techniques were cited as the reasons.
>As I previously posted, new standards and guidelines were much need
>and labs then became accredited.

>However, according to this book, on p.72....

>     "Unfortunately, most of the techniques used by companies
>     such as Lifecodes and Cellmark are proprietary - that is,
>     the companies have patented the techniques so that no one
>     else can use them and profit financially from them.  As
>     a result, it is virtually impossible to standardize the
>     techniques."

>Well, that pretty much settles the matter for me.  No wonder we
>have so much controversy on this subject (and very little in the
>way of published journal articles on the exact methods used)?

>Oh well!



I'm not familiar with the book you quote. However, the quote is 
inaccurate and your comment unjustified. Both of the commercial
labs subscribe to national guidelines on DNA analysis, which calls
for making available their protocols. There is nothing secret about them
and they are routinely made available to attorneys involved in civil
in criminal matters where the labs have performed work. Furthermore,
descriptions of their methods have appeared in print. However, you 
might be bored after finding out their methods are very ordinary
variations on well established RFLP methods using publicly available
reagents and probes. The protocols themselves are not at all controversial.
However, the statistical interpretation of the results has generated
some arguments. All of this is well documented in the scientific
literature. A good deal of it can be found in Science, Nature, Amer.
J. Hum. Genet., J For Sci Soc, and J For Sci. 

John Hartmann

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