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26 November 2013

DNA can be used to identify unknown criminals

In forensics, DNA-based prediction of appearance traits such as height, eye colour, hair colour and age, is useful to find unknown perpetrators.

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DNA can be used to predict taller-than-average height, a new study finds.

This could prove useful in criminal investigations and in estimating if a child will be abnormally tall as an adult, the researchers said.

Their study of nearly 800 extremely tall adults and more than 9 000 normal-height people focused on 180 DNA variants previously linked to normal height differences.40% of the DNA variants showed a significant effect on height in tall people.

The findings appeared in the journal Human Genetics.

Finding perpetrators

The study wasn't as accurate as past research that used DNA to predict eye colour, hair colour and age, study leader Professor Manfred Kayser said in a journal news release.

"[Still], I expect that upcoming new knowledge on height genetics will further increase the accuracy in predicting tall stature, and eventually the full range of body height, from DNA," said Kayser, a member of the department of forensic molecular biology at Erasmus University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands.

That could help police when they're trying to identify suspects in crimes.

"In forensics, DNA-based prediction of appearance traits such as height, eye colour, hair colour and age, is useful to find unknown perpetrators whose conventional DNA profiles are not known to the investigating authorities and who thus escape current DNA identification," Kayser said.

There are also medical benefits for children with certain growth issues, said study co-author Professor Stenvert Drop, of the Erasmus University Medical Centre’s department of paediatrics.

"DNA-based prediction of extreme body height is relevant in paediatrics to estimate the expected body height of a child in adulthood, which can assist in considering growth-limiting treatment," Drop said in the news release.

More information

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website includes children's growth charts.

 
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