Science Questions

Could you have a non-contact DNA scanner?

Thu, 14th Nov 2013

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Question

Liam asked:

Could you ever use some kind of scanner to scan someone for their DNA without physically touching them?

Answer

Listener Liam asks “Could you ever use some kind of scanner to scan someone for their DNA without physically touching them?” To answer, here’s DJ de Koning, who’s a professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

DJ - As far as I can imagine and look into the future, I think we will always need some form of sample from the person or organism we’re trying to determine a genotype or DNA sequence for. But we need very little material these days and I think all of us leave a lot of our DNA lying around without realising it, from which the DNA could be isolated because we only need a single cell.

So, we can isolate DNA from a razor, a comb, a toilet sample, you name it. There's probably quite a bit of your DNA around you where you have been sitting or where you have been blowing your nose, something like that. So, it may not need contact or conscious sample taking, but you do need something that was once part of you to do DNA work.

Kat - Thanks to DJ de Koning, and also our listener Liam. And if you’ve got any questions about genes, DNA and genetics you’d like us to answer, just email them to me at genetics@thenakedscientists.com.

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Liam asked the Naked Scientists: Could you ever use some kind of scanner to scan someone for their DNA without physically touching them? What do you think? Liam, Sun, 18th Oct 2009

A DNA "fingerprint" could be obtained from personal items, e.g. clothing, toothbrush.
  RD, Sun, 18th Oct 2009

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