In the near future, the process of forensic DNA testing may become faster and much easier thanks to a group of researchers at George Mason University. The team, which was overseen by Professor Rao Mulpuri, has created a small-scale device that efficiently analyzes a biological sample and then quickly creates a DNA profile. It is thought that the use of this new instrument could revolutionize the way that law enforcement agencies conduct and even solve criminal investigations.
The new hand held DNA analyzer, which is no bigger than a cell phone, utilizes a microchip that replaces several of the laboratory steps that are used in the process of DNA extraction. The chip, only about a centimeter in size, uses microwaves to quickly increase the temperature of the sample, allowing analysts to extract a DNA profile, thus saving time.
Because time is a very important element when dealing with a criminal investigation, the ability to have DNA results available while police are still examining a crime scene can drastically increase the probability of law enforcement catching a perpetrator. It may be as simple as a police officer gathering a biological sample while inspecting a crime scene then using the portable analyzer to generate a DNA profile onsite instead of the current method of submitting the sample to a crime lab and waiting for results. Once the DNA profile is obtained, law enforcement would then be able to upload that profile into the federal DNA database Codis and compare it to existing offender profiles. The use of this technology would drastically shorten the time it takes to complete a crime scene analysis from months to as little as a few hours.
However, the George Mason University research team did state that the new DNA analyzer wouldn’t be readily available to law enforcement agencies for up to ten years because the device still needs to go through test trials to verify accuracy. However, once it is put in place it could ultimately save local, state, & federal agencies both time and money on criminal investigations, and possibly prevent crimes from happening altogether.