NIST quantifies gene frequency to establish basis for DNA identification with next generation sequencing

Categories Biometric R&D  |  Biometrics News

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a statistical foundation for extending DNA matching beyond “DNA fingerprints” to Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), in research jointly funded by NIST and the FBI, according to an announcement.

NIST says the DNA profiles produced by NGS can be used in some crimes that traditional DNA fingerprints does not help with.

“If you’re working criminal cases, you need to be able to generate match statistics,” said Katherine Gettings, the NIST biologist who led the study. “The data we’ve published will make it possible for labs that use NGS to generate those statistics.”

DNA profiling was developed in the 1990’s based on short tandem repeats (STRs), which are sections where the genetic code repeats. The number of repetitions is counted to produce a series of numbers that can be used to identify an individual. NGS takes advantage of the much lower cost of genetic sequencing, compared to when the STR-based technique was developed, to create a profile based on using the actual genetic sequence, which in some cases, such as when only a minute amount of DNA evidence is discovered, can provide the extra information necessary to make an accurate identification.

NIST has now calculated the frequency with which each gene appears in NGS-based profiles by examining the more than 55,000 markers (or repeating DNA samples) from more than 1,000 individuals. The research has been published in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics.

Before the technique can be applied to forensic investigations, methods for labs to manage the higher volume of data produced by NGS must be developed, and operating procedures and quality controls must be developed, according to NIST.

Researchers at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center announced the development of a fast and potentially inexpensive way to identify individuals by their DNA late last year.

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