Thursday, August 20, 2009

DNA -- I Counted on You

By Barbara D'Amato

DNA evidence can be fabricated, accoding to a report in The New York Times [August 17 2009].

Scientists in Isreal have made up samples of saliva and blood with DNA that's different from the donor of the samples. And there's even worse news. If they had your DNA profile, say from a law enforcement database, they could construct the DNA without needing any blood or physical tissue from you.

Dan Frumkin, the author of the paper that appeared in Forensic Science International: Genetics, says "Any biology undergraduate could perform this."

Tania Simoncelli, from the ACLU, warns that DNA is easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints. As a person who once moved fingerprints in a book, I can testify that it's difficult.

But there's hope. Frumkin has also apparently developed a way to tell faked DNA apart from real samples. He's working to sell his method to forensics laboratories.

Unless the way to tell faked from real turns out to be successful, DNA forging is enough to send most writers who deal with crime scenes back to the drawing board and give them fits for a while. But like most scientific developments, for a writer, the question is whether this one is a boon or a disaster. It will certainly "date" many books if it becomes generally used.


Dana King said...

Speaking strictly from a writing perspective, this could be a good thing. Too many writers and readers are hung up on DNA, and think results can come back in ten minutes, like on CSI. Too oftem we al forget that the results are slow to return, and, even then, criminals are rarely caught using DNA evidence. They are more easily convicted once caught, but good old shoe leather and talking to people and inductive reasoning still solve the majority of crimes.

This faking business also opens up whole new realms for writers. It's like you can't depend on anything anymore. Like when they tried that new Coke.

Doug Riddle said...

And how many thriller writers out there read that and went...."Holy crap, that just gave me a great idea for a book!!!!"

Barbara D'Amato said...

Dana and Doug-- Yes, exactly. There's another whole avenue of good deceptions possible.