Science Questions

How many genes for a genetic fingerprint?

Tue, 18th Mar 2014

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Ed Wilson asked:

How many genes do you need to give each person a unique genetic fingerprint?


Chris - The answer is, it actually takes none because the way in which they made and Dnahelix_genetic_fingerprintthis is Alec Jeffreys who got a medal actually for the discovery of the concept of genetic fingerprinting back in the later 1980s. The way this works is that you use a part of your genetic code called VNTR's Ė Variable Number Tandem Repeats. There are some parts of your genetic code that donít code directly for a protein which you could detect in your cells. Thatís what genes normally do. So, youíve got other bits of your DNA that donít code for things like that. Because they donít code for things, if changes happen to them, it doesnít matter to how the cell works. And so, certain bits of genetic sequence in those particular regions can be copied many, many times and it doesnít matter because it doesnít affect how the cell works. So, one person might have 15 copies and another person might have 500. If you cut the DNA up with molecular pairs of scissors called restriction enzymes, and they cut in various places in amongst these so-called variable number tandem repeats, you will get chunks of DNA of different sizes for every single person. And thatís how a genetic fingerprint works. Weíre not necessarily sequencing genes although we can these days. Actually, those genetic fingerprints were based on random amplifications or copies of bits of DNA that donít actually necessarily do anything. 


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DNA is analogous to a base-4 number system, represented by the characters C A T & G.

You'd need a string of at least 17 such characters to give everyone* on Earth a unique character code.

Human DNA sequence is over a billion characters long ...

RD, Thu, 20th Mar 2014

You can find your specific genetic fingerprint in the mitochondrial DNA. Through the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction, the 441 base pairs in a mitochondrial sequence of DNA is revealed and replicated. It is separated through gel electrophoresis where the negative DNA and positive cathode are used to seperate the DNA sequence from the mitochondria. This process is a lot longer and more complicated, however it is another way that you could use to find your genetic fingerprint while only using 441 base pairs of nucleotides. grossoehme56, Tue, 22nd Apr 2014

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