Wednesday, April 9, 2008


The DNA fingerprinting technique developed by British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys has revolutionised the field of forensic science, and police detective work.

It has also played an important role in the resolution of paternity and immigration disputes.

DNA fingerprints are examined all around the world, even in portable laboratories, and the equipment for genetic fingerprinting is being made by dozens of companies globally.

Sir Alec discovered the technique for DNA fingerprinting in a "Eureka" moment while examining an X-ray that formed part of a DNA experiment, analysing genetic markers for fundamental human studies.

What the experiment revealed, unexpectedly, were extraordinarily variable DNA patterns showing simple inheritance in his technician's family's DNA. Sir Alec realised the importance of this discovery, which was in effect a biological identification method.

"That moment changed my life," he says. And it led to the development of techniques that would fundamentally change this area of science.

Sir Alec is Professor of Genetics at the University of Leicester and continues to work at the genetics laboratory.

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