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What is DNA fingerprinting?

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Quick Answer

DNA fingerprinting is a forensic process that involves extracting DNA from the nucleus of cells and comparing the tiny differences between DNA found on evidence and any suspects. The technique uses results to prove whether people are guilty or innocent. Since the same DNA is found in each cell of the human body, DNA fingerprinting can include skin, hair or even cheek cells found in saliva. Innovators seek ways to speed up this process and use less DNA.

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While DNA fingerprinted was initially developed in the early 1980s, the first time the technique was used to catch a criminal was in 1987. Starting in 1989, DNA fingerprinting has since exonerated many people through the Innocence Project. The older method used for DNA fingerprinting was restriction fragment length polymorphism, which required a lot of DNA, but a newer method called microsatellite analysis allowed scientists to analysis DNA with a limited amount of genetic material.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a long molecule in the form of a double helix that exists in the cells of life. The molecule carries the instructions needed for cells to reproduce, develop and function. Almost each person's DNA is unique like a fingerprint with the only exception being identical twins.

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