An interesting article was published online in a forensic journal indicating that DNA evidence can be manufactured even without any blood or tissue from the targeting profile.
The implications for courtrooms is hard to overstate, and in fact the authors of the study are associated with a Tel Aviv genetics lab that is marketing a means for forensics labs to distinguish between faked and genuine samples. The company, Nucleix uses a molecular technique that allows technicians to tell if a sample has been fabricated. The technique relies on the fact that amplified DNA — which would be used in either deception — is not methylated, meaning it lacks certain molecules that are attached to the DNA at specific points, usually to inactivate genes.
Of course, as DNA has become more and more commonly used, and in general it has been regarded as being impossible to fake – and unlikely to be mistaken – it has taken on a huge and pivotal role in adjudicating guilt or innocence in criminal cases. How many cases in the future will end with reasonable doubt because the results might possibly have been faked? Absent some system such as that offered by Nucleix, I think there is the potential for a lot of them, to say nothing of the appeals of existing cases.
I’m going to be looking for more on this topic – especially to hear if other scientists agree with the Nucleix folks about how easy it would be to fake evidence. Stay tuned.