DNA fingerprinting is a test to identify and evaluate the genetic information - DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) - in a person's cells. It is called a "fingerprint" because it is very unlikely that any two people would have exactly the same DNA information, in the same way that it is very unlikely that any two people would have exactly the same physical fingerprint. The test is used to determine whether a family relationship exists between two people, to identify organisms causing a disease, and to solve crimes. Only a small sample of cells is needed for DNA fingerprinting. A drop of blood or the root of a hair contains enough DNA for testing. Semen, hair, or skin scrapings are samples that are often available in criminal investigations.
DNA fingerprinting services has been provided as a public service by Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology for the last eleven years. Today Molecular Forensics & DNA Technologies (MFDT) includes Regional Facility for DNA Fingerprinting (RFDF) self-contained and self-sustained unit. The facility is managed by Chief Scientific Officer, Case Receiving Officer, DNA Examiner and Laboratory Technicians. The major service of RFDF is to provide human DNA Fingerprinting services to judicial, crime investigating and law enforcing agencies. Samples related to maternity/paternity disputes, crime, alleged rape, cases involving man missing, child swapping in hospitals, for linking suspects to biological evidence at crime scenes and personal identification for immigration purpose are analysed at RFDF.
RFDF has expanded its DNA Fingerprinting services to flora and fauna including RAPD, AFLP or microsatellite marker-based studies, testing for genetic diversity analysis, species/population/varietal discrimination and hybrid seed testing. DNA Barcoding of plants, animals and microbes is one of the new services offered. Species identification in wildlife forensics to help the authorities is yet another service offered by RFDF.
Animal poaching is one of the major threats to the animals in wild. It is imperative to punish the offenders to prevent illegal poaching. Samples confiscated by forest officers in Kerala Forest Department are forwarded to our lab for identification of species, so as to enable them to charge the case and punish the offenders. DNA Barcoding helps to identify animals even from minute or cooked samples. But the exact identification of species from the Western Ghats region of Kerala, which is one of the hottest biodiversity hotspots, is often difficult or not possible due to the lack of reference sequences in databases. In collaboration with Zoological Gardens, Department of Museum & Zoos, Thiruvananthapuram we are in the process of developing a DNA Barcode database of captive animals in Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, which will be useful in wildlife forensics to provide evidence to the legal bodies to punish the offenders in poaching cases and thus aiding in the conservation of endangered and endemic animals. We have collected blood/muscle samples from captive animals in Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, India. Samples included many endemic and threatened species present in the Western Ghats and many local as well as migratory birds. DNA was isolated from the samples and COI as well as Cytochrome B genes were amplified and sequenced using universal primers.
RFDF is also a training centre for scientists and students who wish to learn about the techniques used for DNA Fingerprinting and DNA barcoding.