5 Rabi-Ul-Thani 1440 AH • 13 December 2018

UWC launches DNA-testing kit to assist in the conviction of sexual offenders

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A recent development of a new DNA kit may assist in criminal investigations involving sexual abuse, according the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

The DNA kit which was launched earlier this week is designed to help authorities with forensic investigations.

Head of the Forensic DNA Laboratory at UWC’s Department of Biotechnology and leader of the project Prof Maria Eugenia D’Amato said the kits’ design took place a few years ago and recently materialized with the help of industrial partner Inqaba Biotec.

A solution to low resolution in conventional kits was found following a survey on the genetic diversity in South Africa.

D’Amato and her team captured DNA samples from anonymous male South African donors to create a database that represents the genetic diversity in the region. Due to the variety of genetics in on the continent, commercial genotyping has previously made convictions difficult.

The testing kit consist of a few boxes with tubes that hold reactants. These reactants are put into contact with DNA that generates a genetic profile by targeting the Y-chromosome.

Professor D’Amato explained however, that DNA retrieved from the scene of a crime is not always clear cut.

“Most forensic tests are having a look at genomes but sometimes evidence from the scene has a combination of male and female. In that case it is very difficult to differentiate between the DNA. This (kit) targets the Y-chromosome and singles out the male,” she said.

This use of differentiation could assist detectives in identifying perpetrators of sexual crimes in a way that is concrete enough for successful conviction.

The kit is currently in a beta-testing phase, which requires the feedback of users for analysis.

Prof D’Amato said however that it has been used in Zimbabwe and has been distributed to different labs for testing.

VOC/ Tauhierah Salie

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