New DNA technology could help crack cases using single strand of hair

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) -- Big changes are coming to crime solving with new science out of the Lawrence Livermore national laboratory.

A single one-inch strand of hair from anywhere on a persons body can be used to identify a potential criminal. The biggest impact will be on sexual assault cases.

Soon law enforcement will only need a one-inch piece of hair that could be weighed and then dissolved.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory chemist Fanny Chu said, "We look to detect peptides which are smaller chunks of protein in the hairs. And we can link the peptides to individual genetic variations individuals have."

It's DNA on steroids.

Chu added, "Regardless if the hair is from the scalp or the arm or the pubic region we can obtain the same amount of genetic information from these hair samples."

And that's a big breakthrough, years in the making at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

For the first time, it's not just hair from your head but hair from anywhere on your body. For a point of comparison, you used to need 100 times that inch of hair to yield the same results. This new science also adds 10 times the accuracy so one in 10 million.

This could open up a whole new world when it comes to prosecuting sexual assault cases.

Deon Anex, a chemist leading the group at Lawrence Livermore Lab said, "Hair is often collected as part of evidence and sexual assault cases, and say if you collect a pubic hair. Instead of an expert taking that rape evidence and making an opinion about it, we can extract the proteins, make a measurement and have a scientifically-based statistical analysis for making that comparison."

Within the next one to two years this new tool will be available to law enforcement to crack cold cases and to prosecute sexual assault cases.
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