written by: ushasista•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 1/21/2010
DNA fingerprinting is not just deployed to hunt down criminals. The pioneering technology has also been used to study the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls and to help save endangered species.
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DNA fingerprinting or DNA profiling (DNA typing or genetic fingerprinting) is a technique used to identify individuals based on their unique DNA profiles. DNA is profiled by analyzing sequences known as variable number tandem repeats (VNTR). The loci for VNTRs are similar in related humans but most unlikely to be so in unrelated individuals.
Uses for DNA Fingerprinting
There are many uses of DNA fingerprinting, some of which are paternity testing, wildlife management, and piecing together the Dead Sea Scrolls. The most commonly used techniques under DNA testing are restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), short tandem repeats (STR) analysis, amplified fragment length polymorphism, Y chromosome analysis and mitochondrial DNA analysis.
Use of DNA fingerprinting for paternity testing is quite obvious. The DNA of a child will contain similar VNTR loci compared to that of the parent. It is usually used to determine the father of a child. But in some cases it may also be used to determine the identity of the mother.
The use of DNA fingerprinting for wildlife management is also known as wildlife forensics. Some of the applications of wildlife forensics are - paternity testing for captive breeding programs, identification of endangered species, identification of illegal kill samples by comparison with DNA obtained from the poached animals, identification of species from unknown tissue samples obtained from illegal kills, and sex identification of endangered animals.
Dating Ancient Manuscripts
One other interesting application of DNA fingerprinting has been in piecing together the Dead Sea Scrolls, religious texts written more than 2,000 years ago. The number of fragment parts of the scrolls had to be identified as belonging to the same manuscript. The scrolls were written on different animal skins. The skins were too fragmented and fragile to be studied by carbon-14 dating. Through DNA analysis, it was found that most scrolls were written on goatskin. Scrolls written on one animal skin in one location more likely belonged to one scribe.