While biological evidences have always played a pivotal role in shaping the outcome of crime investigation cases, ‘genomics’ is a relatively less explored realm when it comes to forensics. The use of genomics seems restricted in forensics when compared to that in other applications areas such as drug discovery, drug development, agriculture, veterinary research, and medical diagnostics.
Extensive criminal intelligence databases are being maintained by several countries across the globe, leveraging the capabilities of DNA testing – the gold standard in biological testing. However, the bolstering number of criminal cases repeatedly highlights the critical demand for more powerful methodical tools that will potentially strengthen the final outcome of forensic analysis. Whole genome amplification (WGA) is perceived to be among the most promising and powerful tools to potentially offer a whole new dimension to the contemporary forensic science space.
WGA was first used with a predominant objective of improving the DNA profile recovery, i.e. high quantity and high quality. Today, the WGA technology is more prominently used in fingerprint analysis, biosecurity studies, human identity analysis, and genotyping. The industry is most likely to witness the emergence of diverse application areas of WGA soon, with continual research and growing R&D funds, in addition to advancing technology.
Extracting information about the demographic and physical traits
Forensic professionals have been facing some long-term challenges over the years, including accurate human age prediction, identification of monozygotic twins, and precise interpretation of human behavior. A few advanced methods that can precisely determine the patterns of DNA methylation can potentially help discern diverse DNA samples collected at the crime sites.
Forensic scientists are also investing research efforts in the identification of behavior, addiction patterns, race, and ethnicity. A recent research study revealed that by using the information collected from crime sites, WGA can be efficiently used for accurate prediction of physical traits and demographics of human – which may include voice, face, eye color, age, weight, height, skin color, and even the BMI (body mass index).
NGS for highly targeted forensic testing
The advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technique is expected to empower the future of investigation field in the near future. NGS is best known for its capability to cover the whole genome and address more than one query in one assay. While ongoing research studies are focusing on targeted outcomes such as hair type, nose and ear shape, lip line, and overall facial morphology, it would be no surprise if the forensic testing landscape witnesses extremely specific identification capabilities in the near future, from the smallest and highly compromised DNA samples at the crime site.
Can WGA step in resolving sexual assault cases more effectively and efficiently?
Mixed DNA profiles often limit the capabilities to resolve sexual assault and rape cases, for which the differential extraction method has been in use, over the years. Despite this method differentiating vaginal cells from spermatozoa sourced from intimate swabs, accurate identification of DNA of the suspect is quite infeasible. This limitation is attributed to the availability of inadequate quantity of single cell DNA in a majority of cases. Another drawback of differential extraction is its inability to distinguish between sperms of different individuals contained by the sample. As WGA is being touted as a powerful tool to resolve such cases through profiling of single sperm cell DNA, tackling the challenges of mixed DNA profiles still remains a challenge.
Of late, microbial forensics has been emerging as a lucrative area that can explore applicability in forensic analysis – especially in the analysis of assorted evidences involved in different criminal cases. While microbial forensics can be of use in addressing bioterrorism, fraud, or accidental leakage of gases, toxins, or other biological agents, it may also create possibilities of accurately addressing rape and physical assault cases in future.
The above insights are sourced from a detailed market intelligence outlook on the whole genome amplification market presented by expert analysts working in the Life Sciences domain at Future Market Insights.
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