DNA fingerprinting is a way of identifying a specific individual, rather than simply identifying a species or some particular trait. It is also known as genetic fingerprinting or DNA profiling. As a technology, it has been around since at least 1985, when it was announced by its inventor, Sir Alec Jeffreys. DNA fingerprinting is currently used both for identifying paternity or maternity and for identifying criminals or victims. There is discussion of using DNA fingerprinting as a sort of personal identifier as well, although the viability of this is debatable.The vast majority of a human's DNA will match exactly that of any other human, making distinguishing between two people rather difficult. DNA fingerprinting uses a specific type of DNA sequence, known as a microsatellite, to make identification much easier. Microsatellites are short pieces of DNA which repeat many times in a given person's DNA. In a given area, microsatellites tend to be highly variable, making them ideal for DNA fingerprinting. By comparing a number of microsatellites in a given area, one can identify a person relatively easily.
The sections of DNA used in DNA fingerprinting, although highly variable, are passed down from parents to their children. Although not all of the sections will necessarily be passed on, no child has pairs that their parents do not have. This means that by comparing large groups of these sections, paternity, maternity, or even both, may be determined. DNA fingerprinting has a high success rate and a very low false-positive rate, making it an extremely popular form of paternity and maternity verification.
In forensics, DNA fingerprinting is very attractive because it doesn't require actual fingerprints, which may or may not be left behind, and may or may not be obscured. Because all of the DNA sections are contained in every cell, any piece of a person's body, from a strand of hair to a skin follicle to a drop of blood, may be used to identify them using DNA...
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