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Israeli scientists can fabricate DNA evidence

world Updated: Aug 18, 2009 22:53 IST
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Israeli scientists have successfully fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA, potentially undercutting what has been considered key evidence leading to conviction or exoneration in crime cases.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases, The New York Times reported.

They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

Dr Frumkin is a founder of Nucleix, a company based in Tel Aviv that has developed a test to distinguish real DNA samples from fake ones that it hopes to sell to forensics laboratories.

Celebrities might have to fear “genetic paparazzi,” said Gail H Javitt of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University while commenting on the development.

The scientists fabricated DNA samples two ways. One required a real, if tiny, DNA sample, perhaps from a strand of hair. They amplified the tiny sample into a large quantity of DNA using a standard technique called whole genome amplification.

The other technique relied on DNA profiles, stored in law enforcement databases as a series of numbers and letters corresponding to variations at 13 spots in a person's genome.

From a pooled sample, the scientists cloned tiny DNA snippets. They said a library of 425 different DNA snippets would be enough to cover every conceivable profile.