- David Gutierrez
Scientists from the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company Nucleix have demonstrated that it is possible to create fake DNA samples and plant them as evidence at a crime scene, in a paper published in the journal
"You can just engineer a crime scene," said lead researcher and Nucleix co-founder Dan Frumkin. "Any biology
In addition to having developed a method of fabricating DNA evidence, Nucleix has also developed a method of detecting faked DNA that it plans to sell to
The scientists have developed two different ways to manufacture DNA samples in order to fool law enforcement. The first involves using DNA profiles from law enforcement databases, which record the code at 13 different spots on a person's genome. Using a pooled library of DNA samples from a number of different people, the geneticists were able to physically construct DNA that was identical to a suspect's DNA at those 13 points. It would take only 425 different DNA snippets to be able to construct every possible permutation, the researchers said.
The second method involved collecting actual DNA from the person whose genetic material was to be faked, such as by collecting a strand of their hair or saliva from a cup they had used.
In both cases, the DNA was then reproduced in large quantities using a technique called whole genome amplification. This DNA was inserted into red blood cells, which were then passed off as a real DNA sample.
A normal blood sample would contain both red and white blood cells, and the red blood cells would contain no DNA. In addition to this difference from a normal sample, amplified DNA lacks certain molecules contained by normal DNA. Forensics labs are unlikely to test for either of these anomalies without cause, however.
"DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints," said Tania Simoncelli of the American Civil Liberties Union, in response to the study. "We're creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology."
The researchers warned that their techniques could also be used to replicate enough of a person's DNA to carry out genetic testing on them without their consent, thus violating their right to genetic privacy.
Sources for this story include: www.nytimes.com.