Dr. Ed Green
Photo Credit: James Tensuan for The New York Times
Heather Murphy | New York Times | September 16, 2019
The trouble for detectives, or anyone else seeking to figure out whom a strand of hair belonged to, is that unless it contains a root, which only a tiny percentage do, it’s about as helpful as a nearby rock.
These limitations emerge at trials, where forensic scientists have to explain to juries why, contrary to what’s seen on TV, they can’t get sufficient DNA out of a hair plucked from a sweater, and when amateur family historians stumble upon a deceased relative’s hairbrush. Without a root, labs will tell them, there’s no hope of generating a DNA profile for a genealogy site.
Until now. Ed Green, a paleogeneticist at the University of California, Santa Cruz known in the scientific community for his work on the Neanderthal genome, has developed a technique that makes it possible to recover and sequence DNA from hair without the root.
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