DNA Analysis: New technologies for speedier crime investigation in Malaysia

DNA Analysis

While scouring the net researching DNA testing and technology, I stumbled upon this article from GE Reports Malaysia. Here we take a look at Rapid DNA analysis, which takes just 90 minutes to process compared to weeks when using traditional methods. Read on for full post.

The proliferation of criminal activities in Malaysia is unsettling1. According to World Bank (2011), the Malaysian Police reported there were approximately six crimes for every 1,000 people in 2010 alone. While crime is inevitable, efforts in increasing criminal enforcement are being carried out by the government and responsible taskforces. The latest fast, reliable and transparent technology in crime investigation is Rapid DNA analysis.

Using forensic DNA testing to eliminate suspects and identify perpetrators in criminal cases has become a conventional process and is generally accepted in the scientific community and court system1. Modern forensic scientists use a method where small fragments of DNA called short tandem repeats (STRs) from standardized areas within a person’s DNA are evaluated to determine a person’s DNA profile. A typical DNA profile, which is simplified to a series of numeric pairs, is so statistically powerful that there is less than a one-in-a-billion chance that the DNA belongs to someone else2.

Today, the process of booking an arrestee, determining if DNA collection is necessary, collecting the required sample, and transmitting it to the forensic laboratory for analysis can be confusing, time-consuming and cumbersome. Moreover, DNA degrades over time and its lifespan is dependent on how well it is preserved against exposure to heat, water and sunlight elements which promote degradation.

The introduction of advanced DNA analysis technologies, such as the DNA scan Rapid DNA Analysis System, in Malaysia will be useful primarily because of its ability to produce STR profiles in 90 minutes3. In turn, this helps speed up the process of criminal forensic investigation cases in Malaysia. Technologies as these are especially useful given the hot and humid Malaysian climate, where DNA molecules deteriorate at a quicker rate. In addition, the longer it takes to process and receive DNA results, the less likely that a suspect can be apprehended in a short period of time.

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DNA Analysis

There are several factors which promote the use of newer DNA analysis technologies versus traditional methods. Firstly, DNA profiling allows for the search and comparison of known “person-of-interest” reference samples from DNA databases. This aids law enforcement officers to solve crimes, convict offenders and exonerate the innocent in a short span of time.

Previously, traditional DNA typing processes have required many types of bulky laboratory equipment, highly-trained personnel and a longer time to test samples. Conversely, newer technologies offer rapid results, movable and are user-friendly.

Newer DNA analysis technologies offer on-the-spot DNA reference profiling system matches where officers can operate these user-friendly technologies as it does not require any specialized training. For criminal prosecutors and forensic investigators, up-to-date DNA technologies enable quick results with portable features that can be used by both technical and non-technical personnel without difficulty. Over time, as DNAscan Rapid DNA Analysis Systems are installed in police booking stations for the processing of suspect and arrestee DNA samples, rapid DNA analysis will allow forensic labs to spend more time focusing on crime scene samples, further improving turnaround time and helping to reduce backlogs.
DNA Analysis

DNA Analysis

Real-world Implementation

Innovative DNA analysis technologies provide hope for criminal prosecutors, crime investigators, victims and their families as well as the wrongly-accused. A decrease in wait time for DNA analysis results and the provision of accurate results for forensic inquests helps maintain the law. The DNAscan Rapid DNA Analysis System has been designed to ensure that samples and sample data are safe and secure, helping the agency maintain chain of custody and data integrity. In the pipeline, ASEANAPOL is in collaborative talks to market GE’s Rapid DNA Analysis technology throughout the ASEAN region. According  to ASEANAPOL (2014), this effort is to support the region’s forensic projects, in terms of security concerns that encompass national DNA databases, border surveillance and security, terrorism control and disaster victim identification processes.

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Note: The areas of the DNA that are evaluated during standard forensic testing are for identification purposes only. They do NOT contain any personal information or any medical or disease status information.

1 Economic Planning Unit Prime Minister’s Department Putrajaya, Malaysian Well-being Report (2013)

Wickenheiser, R. The Business Case for Using Forensic DNA Technology to Solve and Prevent Crime. J. Biolaw Bus. 7(3), 2 -18 (2004).

3 Butler, J.M. Forensic DNA Typing: Biology and Technology behind STR Markers, Academic Press, London (2001).

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Originally posted at: GE Reports Malaysia

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