A History of DNA Testing: An Interesting Timeline

A History of DNA Testing: An Interesting Timeline

When we think of DNA we tend to think of two key things, solving crimes and paternity testing.

Both have been dramatically improved in terms of results over the last few decades with scientists revolutionising the identification of genetics.

The idea of DNA stretches back as far as Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, but it wasn’t until 1985 when DNA testing became a reality.

It dramatically changed the landscape we live in, offering 99.9999% accuracy when it comes to matching DNA.

2 years following its advent, it was used for the first time in the USA to convict a criminal, transforming the justice system and setting a precedent that continues to this day.

Tommie Lee Andrews became the first man to be convicted using a DNA match, after scientists paired his genetic profile to a string of rapes and murders in Richmond, Virginia. Gary Ridgway followed, being convicted of a number of murders in Seattle, and since it's a critical part of how most crimes are solved.

Of course, it isn’t just in convicting and exonerating people that DNA testing has been groundbreaking. It’s helping improve the lives of many in numerous ways, whether that be through understanding illnesses and finding a cure or uncovering paternal ancestry and beyond.

The latter first started in the 1920s with doctors trying to match blood types, however this only proved to be around 30% accurate due to the vast number of people with the same blood types. It wasn’t until the 1990s when RFLP arrived when accuracy became virtually 100%.

RFLP, restricted fragment length polymorphism, is the most simple and effective way to test DNA, working by breaking down the DNA and separating the strands by length.

Today, a similar process is used, with technology making DNA sequencing less expensive and more accessible than ever before.

Paternal testing is almost an over the counter process these days, with a number of DNA testing kits available to purchase online for as little as $20 per month.

There are dozens available to order, and you’ll find plenty of DNA testing kit reviews, highlighting what the services do.

Generally you’ll have to take a swab from the inside of the cheek of those requiring a paternity test and send it off to the company for testing.

Scientists will then use the sequencing as mentioned above, before sending back the results.

What’s more, brands such as Ancestry.com are also allowing you to go back further, pairing your DNA with a whole catalogue with billions of data points, simply allowing you to trace an entire family tree.

DNA testing continues to advance alongside technology and is vastly improving testing and making it more and more accessible to us. What the future holds, who knows, but you can be sure it’s going to produce some quite remarkable results.