2 September 2010
Erasmus MC researchers have discovered a way of distinguishing between generations of male relatives in forensic research. To date, so-called Y-chromosome markers (Y-STRs) could only be used to identify groups of male relatives but not those of individual men. The researchers found a set of Y-STR markers that could be used to identify individual men. This is of vital importance, for example, in forensic investigations into sexual offences. The researchers will be publishing their findings in the leading scientific journal The American Journal of Human Genetics.
Forensic research makes use of DNA profiling. In sexual offences cases, DNA samples are taken from the vagina but these usually contain more female victim DNA than male offender DNA. In these cases, focus is put on so-called Y chromosome markers (Y-STRs) as women have no Y chromosomes. Until recently, the Y-STR analysis only allowed for groups of male relatives to be analyzed, making it a constraining factor in the identification of an individual offender.
Researchers from the Forensic Molecular Biology department of Erasmus MC led an international group of scientists who studied a large number of Y-STR markers in a large number of father-son pairs. In this study they found a set of Y-STR markers that mutate rapidly over generations. This set of Y-STR markers can be used to identify an offender in relation to his male relatives.
Prof Manfred Kayser, head of the Forensic Molecular Biology department of Erasmus MC: “Since my PhD research on the possibilities of Y chromosomes in forensic research, 15 years ago, I have been driven by the problem that male relatives could not be distinguished by the Y-STR markers. Our new findings can be used to identify a man on the basis of his Y-STR profile and can therefore in future be useful in solving sex crimes."
Prof Ate Kloosterman of the Human Biological Traces department of the NFI (Netherlands Forensic Institute): "Before long, this new information will allow us to process much rarer Y chromosome DNA profiles. This will substantially increase the evidential value of the research. This can also help us in identifying the remains of unidentified men. Once new legislation allows for DNA family relation tests in criminal proceedings, the more specific Y chromosome DNA test will also play an important role."
Erasmus MC (FMB) is consortium partner of FGCN.
Read the EMC Press Release »