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Forensic science is more than just what you see on television
and read in criminal novels. There are dozens of people who are involved in a
criminal investigation and there’s a significant need for individuals with
specialized skills and training. With so many sub-disciplines to choose from,
the field of forensic science offers a virtually limitless number of career paths
to students who are interested in the mechanics of crime-solving.

such developing field is Forensic Molecular Genetics. The first use of DNA in forensic science was to
identify the perpetrator of a murder in 1985, since then, forensic science has
witnessed dramatic changes in the field of human identification. Over the past
25 years advances in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) technology have led to
spectacularly precise forensic identification techniques. Current work in
forensic genetics is pushing these technologies even further. They include
recovery of extremely small amount of DNA and its amplification for its use in
identifying disaster victims, and analysis of extremely damaged DNA. RNA (ribonucleic
acid) is also emerging as a potential genetic marker. Currently,
millions of samples from blood, semen, hair and tissues etc are analyzed to determine
their origin.

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Traditionally, forensic molecular genetics has been leaning
towards using human DNA in criminal investigation and in civil matters like
paternity disputes. But these days it presents a much broader utility range. New
techniques like the analysis of non-human genetic materials such as from other
animal species, plants and microorganisms are being  assimilated to a greater extent, providing
clinching evidence in cases such as animal attacks and their trafficking, biological
warfare, and identification of food adulterants, among many others.

With the exception of monozygotic twins, every individual
has a different genome. Forensic molecular genetics primarily uses DNA Fingerprinting
for the production of a unique DNA profile for every person. PCR enhances the
process by helping in the amplification of minutest of DNA samples. Further
advancements include new DNA isolation methods, Y-chromosome haplogrouping (indicating
“male” DNA in a mixed sample seen usually in sexual assault cases),
mitochondrial DNA analysis (which is inherited along the same maternal line),
analysis of SNPs in place of STRs for degraded samples obtained from disaster
sites, use of automated sequencers and DNA databases etc. New genetic markers
being tested include mRNA and miRNAs, as they are much smaller in size, thus
less prone to degradation.

Thus, relying on these methods pedigree analysis,
determination of paternity/maternity, victim and suspect identification, and
most importantly exoneration of the innocent becomes highly accurate and
ensures justice for all.

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