Israeli biologists have discovered that DNA can be fabricated in the laboratory. In fact, the DNA of a specific individual can be created if a sample is on file. The development reveals the possibility of fraud in criminal and family court cases among others. As this article says (New York Times, 8/17/09),
The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.
Worse, apparently it’s not that difficult to do. As one scientist said, “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”
Most of the potential misuses of the technology are obvious. Police crime labs could create fake blood or saliva samples to implicate the defendant of their choice. Anyone who’s followed the ongoing scandal surrounding the Houston Police Department Crime lab can imagine the possibilities.
And what’s true of crime labs can be true of private testing laboratories that are more often used in genetic testing for parenthood.
The good news? The Tel Aviv-based company Nucleix is marketing a test that it says distinguishes between real DNA and the faked stuff. Come to think of it, the scare about fake DNA looks at least in part like a marketing ploy to sell their product.
Still, DNA testing is the one thing many people hang their hats on to either prove their innocence, their paternity or their non-paternity. It’s disturbing to learn that it’s less reliable than we thought.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
Thanks to Scotty for the heads-up.