What Are the Differences Between DNA Fingerprinting and Regular Fingerprinting?

Regular fingerprinting methods conduct tests and make records of finger and thumb prints of an individual, while DNA fingerprinting tests the deoxyribonucleic acid of a person, which is located within the nucleus of all cells in the body, states The Tech Museum of Innovation. During DNA fingerprinting, scientists analyze the genetic material to determine the differences in DNA between individuals.

Fingerprints and DNA are similar in that both are unique to an individual, which is why they are used as evidence in criminal cases and to identify bodies, informs WebMD. Scientists can collect DNA from blood, skin, saliva, hair and urine. Semen, bone and teeth also contain DNA.

After the DNA is collected, it is typically first analyzed by using a procedure called Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, in which enzymes cut the sample, allowing scientists to extract the DNA, states Explore Forensics. Electrophoresis separates the DNA segments created during RFLP, and measures each piece by length. Scientists then create an x-ray of the results for visual representation, allowing them to compare samples from various individuals. Another DNA fingerprinting procedure is the Short Tandem Repeat Test, which looks for repetitions in the DNA segments.

Regular fingerprints of an individual are recorded using ink, and are then uploaded to an online database, such as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, states Portland State University. Investigators collect visible and latent, or invisible, prints from a crime scene using various techniques, and then compare those prints to the ones stored on databases, explains A Simplified Guide to Fingerprint Analysis.