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New Method of DNA Testing Could Help Pinpoint Which Twin Committed the Crime

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New Method of DNA Testing Could Help Pinpoint Which Twin Committed the Crime

2015-04-06 09:40:16

-by Yuliya Geikhman, Staff Writer; Image: Twins (Image Source: jc/Flickr)

“The evil twin did it” is a plot device every crime drama has utilized at least once. DNA testing might be the easiest way to figure out who did the deed, but the fact is that twin DNA is so similar that it’s often nearly impossible to tell which sibling is the culprit. And if the court can’t decide which twin did it, both must go free.

A new method of DNA comparison is being developed by the Forensic Genetic Research Group in an effort to improve DNA testing. Since identical twins have nearly indistinguishable biological makeup, the method relies on environmental factors to tell their DNA apart.

This new method uses the fact that our bodies have genes that are turned off or on depending on how we live our lives. Factors like smoking, working indoors for prolonged periods of time, and other lifestyle choices affect which genes are turned on or off. Otherwise identical DNA samples will have different melting points thanks to these differences, which can help determine whose DNA was found at the scene of a crime.

While this is the cheapest and quickest method uncovered so far, there are a number of drawbacks to using it in an actual field case. For instance, since the process relies on different environments, it will not be as effective on younger twins, since they will have shared a similar upbringing and lifestyle. Another issue is that the method requires a large sample (100 nanograms), which is not always available in the scene of a crime. Finally, the source matters: the DNA sample must be from the same fluid sample as the one found at the crime.

The drawbacks may keep this method from becoming widely used, but this is still a step towards refining forensic science. Crime dramas may not be the most scientific shows on TV, but they might need to start thinking of a new plot twist soon.

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