DNA evidence has always been considered the end-all-be-all of proof in criminal cases. It was thought that this evidence was infallible and impossible to be tampered with. Well according to Israeli scientists, that is just not true.
Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence. The scientists were able to do this by fabricating blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor. They also demonstrated they could create a sample of DNA to match a DNA profile without obtaining the tissue of the individual from the profile.
“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.”
The scientists fabricated DNA samples in two ways, with one needing the services of a small real DNA sample, which was from a strand of hair. This tiny sample was then made much larger using a technique called whole genome amplification. They then combined the DNA from this strand, which came from a man, with blood from a women that had been removed of its DNA. When this sample was analyzed, it only came back positive as a normal sample of a man’s blood.
The Israelis other technique used DNA profiles, which are stored in law enforcement databases as a series of numbers and letters corresponding to variations at 13 spots in a person’s genome. They cloned tiny DNA snippets representing the common variants at each spot and after mixing the snippets together, determined a library of 425 DNA snippets could cover every conceivable profile.
John M. Butler, leader of the human identity testing project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said he was “impressed at how well they were able to fabricate the fake DNA profiles,” but added, “I think your average criminal wouldn’t be able to do something like that.”
These conclusions by the scientists remind us not only of the threat of DNA fabrication in criminal cases, but also that of the stealing of our personal DNA. We are at the point where it may even be possible to take anyone’s DNA from from a discarded drinking cup or cigarette butt and turn it into a sample that could be used to discover their future health. DNA could be used to injure people in the future in both their personal and private lives, at crime scenes and beyond the scenes, and that’s a very scary thought.