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What is DNA Analysis?
Updated on April 25, 2023
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What is DNA Analysis?

DNA analysis has become one of the most powerful tools and methods for identifying people, their potential genetic matches, and even determining a person's risks for congenital disorders.

By examining the unique code that individuals have in the hereditary material that's been passed down to them from their parents, people can learn more about their heritage and lineage, as well as find out where they may have come from.

DNA analysis works by comparing and contrasting genetic codes between different parties to see where there may be overlaps or differences.

What is DNA Analysis Used For?

There are several uses for DNA Analysis.

It’s gotten a lot of attention for its role as evidence in the criminal justice system, but there are other uses, too. 

It is one of the most accurate methods available for identifying someone. When it became legal and possible to use DNA evidence in criminal cases, it turned the judicial system upside down.

DNA is also used to identify human remains and the identity of the victim. DNA testing will also help evaluate a person’s risk of genetic diseases.


DNA analysis is an incredibly powerful tool used in criminal investigation, identifying human remains, and bringing together long-lost relatives. It's one of the best ways to identify someone and their genetic matches.

What is DNA?

DNA is the hereditary material passed on by parents to their offspring. It holds the instructions needed for the development, growth, and reproduction of an organism. 

Nearly every cell in the human body has the same DNA. Most of the DNA is stored in a cell’s nucleus (nuclear DNA), but some are found in the mitochondria (mitochondrial DNA).

DNA is important because it holds vital information that is necessary for life. It also stores hereditary material and genes.

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What Does DNA Do?

A person’s DNA code provides a great deal of identifying information about that person through DNA analysis.

DNA analysis came into use in the 1980s when Alec Jeffreys, an English geneticist, discovered how to “unlock” DNA code and use it to identify individuals within a species. 

Ever since its discovery, DNA analysis has been used in forensic science. A DNA sample is used in law enforcement agencies as crime scene evidence. Forensic DNA analysis uses a DNA profile to identify criminals, exonerate the innocent, or identify missing persons. 

However, as with any technology, DNA analysis isn’t perfect. It presents special challenges when being used to identify someone from someone else. 

For example, you can easily use DNA evidence to determine if a mountain lion or a man attacked someone. But identifying which man or which mountain lion did the attacking is another story.


DNA is the hereditary material that carries all the unique instructions for an individual's growth and development. Despite this, using DNA to identify people isn't perfect, as there are people who do share similar genetic characteristics, and insufficient genetic material can cause problems, especially in criminal or exoneration cases.

What is DNA Analysis? 2

What’s the Difference between DNA Sequencing and DNA Profiling?

DNA sequencing and DNA profiling are terms sometimes used interchangeably. However, they don’t mean the same thing even though there is a relation.

DNA profiling is a forensic technique. A DNA sample is evaluated and used to identify an individual. On the other hand, DNA sequencing is a technique used in the biotech industry that determines the nucleic acid sequence of a particular DNA fragment.

The actual processes of sequencing and profiling are different, too. 

Profiling occurs in the STR analysis by PCR and gel electrophoresis. Sequencing occurs in the incorporation of labeled dideoxynucleotides by PCR and nucleotide sequence determination by gel electrophoresis. 

Molecular biology uses both, which provides valuable information about a person’s biological identity.


Despite being used interchangeably, DNA sequencing and DNA profiling are very different. DNA profiling is used more often in forensics to identify suspects, while sequencing is used in the biotech industry to determine sequences in DNA fragments.

What Type of DNA Sample Method Is Used and What Are the Different Types of DNA Available for Testing?

There are two techniques used for sampling, including:

  • Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP)
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

The size of the sample determines which of these two methods will work best.

Sources of DNA Evidence

DNA samples are collected in different ways, but only three sources are used in DNA analysis:

  • Subject
  • Subject’s relatives
  • Other people

Samples from any of these three sources can provide information about a situation involving DNA. These sources are processed inside forensic laboratories to confirm or deny a connection to a particular situation.

From the sources listed above, you collect samples in one of several ways, including:

  • Sweat
  • Skin
  • Blood
  • Tissue
  • Hair
  • Dandruff
  • Mucus
  • Semen
  • Ear wax
  • Saliva
  • Vaginal or rectal cells

Investigators collect samples from various places, including directly from the subject, from items he or she has touched, or from a sample “left behind,” such as a hair that fell out.


You can collect DNA in several ways, and most are non-invasive and pain-free, such as tissue, hair, dandruff, etc. Depending on the size of the sample, DNA is tested via:

  • Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP)
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

What is the future of Forensic DNA Testing?

People who study DNA predict a variety of developments in the future. These predictions include:

  • The use of a procedure called “Short Tandem Repeats” will increase in the next ten years
  • It will be possible to analyze DNA at a crime scene and get immediate identification using miniature chips that access databases
  • mDNA will be used more in difficult cases that involve very small amounts of DNA or old/degraded DNA samples
  • DNA databases with profiles of convicted felons will grow, and state-to-state and international comparisons will become common
  • A conventional method will be developed that allows for scientifically unreliable matches to be used for legal and social identification
  • More suspects will be identified via database searches


DNA analysis experts predict even quicker and more efficient processes around analysis and profiling in the next decade or so. Not only will it become more effective, use will also be more internationally widespread.

Considerations When Evaluating DNA Evidence

With all the benefits that come with using DNA evidence, there are also pitfalls.

DNA isn’t perfect, though it’s closer to perfect than many other types of evidence. However, human error or bias corrupts the analysis of DNA evidence. This could result in linking innocent people to crimes and pointing to “airtight” evidence as proof when it’s not completely reliable.

Privacy concerns also exist.

Conducting familial searches exposes people not connected to criminal activity and pulls them into a situation. It might even expose family connections people didn’t know existed.

Finally, racial disparities exist when it comes to DNA analysis.

Because more African American men have their DNA stored in state and federal databases, there is a higher risk of surveillance on minority communities.

Overall, there is a concern that DNA analysis could lead to the creation of a “genetic dragnet” and bring people with no direct link to crime into an investigation, exposing their privacy for no reason.


Because of human error, disparities, and bias, innocent people still get convicted for crimes they did not do, even with the help of DNA analysis. Privacy concerns are also a big cause of concern for many, as they feel their private lives may be invaded even if they haven't committed any criminal activity.

The Role of DNA Technology Today

Various types of modern biotechnology depend on DNA technology. Some of the most common ones include polymerase chain reaction, DNA sequencing and cloning, and gel electrophoresis.

Analyzing DNA has opened up a lot of doors for the improvement of technology. It has undoubtedly changed lives and revolutionized the way we do things. 

Aside from forensic science and its applications in crime scene investigations, DNA technology is also used to develop therapeutic products such as vaccines, anti-cancer drugs, and growth hormones. Additionally, it plays an essential role in the manufacturing of genetically modified products.  

Furthermore, DNA technology is an essential component in energy applications and diagnosis.


DNA has helped many industries come a long way. From anti-cancer drugs to vaccines to exonerating some victims of wrongful incarceration, just to name a few. It will continue to open up new doors and discoveries.

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Updated on April 25, 2023
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3 sources cited
Updated on April 25, 2023
  1. Genetics Home Reference. “What Is DNA?” Genetics Home Reference, 2019,

  2. “Future of Forensic DNA Testing: Predictions of the Research and Development Working Group.” National Institute of Justice,

  3. “DNA Evidence: Basics of Identifying, Gathering and Transporting.” National Institute of Justice, 2012,

Dr. Dhingra
Dr. Harshi Dhingra
Medical Reviewer
Dr Harshi Dhingra is a licensed medical doctor with a specialization in Pathology. Dr. Dhingra has of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work, including managing all sections of Pathology laboratory including histopathology, cytology, hematology and clinical Pathology.
Kelly Jamrozy
Kelly Jamrozy
Content Contributor
Kelly has experience working with clients in a variety of industries, including legal, medical, marketing, and travel. Her goal is to share important information that people can use to make decisions about their health and the health of their loved ones. From choosing the best treatment programs to improving dental and vision health to finding the best method for helping anyone who is struggling with health issues, she hopes to share what she learns through informative content.
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