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DNA Fingerprinting

DNA Fingerprinting

DNA fingerprinting is a laboratory technique used to establish a link between biological evidence and a suspect in a criminal investigation. A DNA sample taken from a crime scene is compared with a DNA sample from a suspect. If the two DNA profiles are a match, then the evidence came from that suspect. Conversely, if the two DNA profiles do not match, then the evidence cannot have come from the suspect. DNA fingerprinting is also used to establish paternity.

DNA Fingerprinting
Images and animations are courtesy of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Talking Glossary (

Materials for DNA Fingerprinting


Methods of DNA Fingerprinting

Description: An animation of DNA fingerprinting


Identifying Missing Persons and Unidentified Decedents

Description: Information on using DNA technology to identify missing persons

Post-conviction Testing and Wrongful Convictions

Description: Information on how DNA testing is being used to identify and free those with wrongful convictions

The False Promise of DNA Testing

Description: The forensic technique is becoming ever more common and ever less reliable.

Interactive Tutorials

Create a DNA Fingerprint

Description: An interactive tutorial on DNA fingerprinting

DNAi Applications

Description: Interactive tutorials including one on DNA fingerprinting and one on how forensic and DNA technologies were used to identify the remains of the Romanov family

Labs & Experiments

DNA Fingerprint: Alu

Description: A DNA fingerprinting virtual laboratory experiment

Gel Electrophoresis

Description: Build your own gel electrophoresis device from scratch with simple materials, and use electricity to separate colored dyes. Gel electrophoresis is a powerful technique used to manipulate and analyze DNA.

Teacher Resources

Forensics (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This module teaches shows students how DNA is analyzed by forensic scientists in order to link a DNA sample to a particular individual. To do this, forensic scientists use powerful molecular biology techniques such as PCR, restriction digests and gel electrophoresis. To learn more about DNA and how it is used by forensic scientists, students will isolate their own DNA from saliva. Using their new-found understanding of DNA and forensics techniques, students will help solve the case of the missing mascot.

Short Tandem Repeats...and Murder! (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: The lesson plan guides students through PCR and gel electrophoresis simulations for six short tandem repeat (STR) loci. They use their data to solve a murder.

Short Tandem Repeats...and Murder! (Short Version) (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson plan involves solving a murder case through analysis of short tandem repeat (STR) loci of forensic DNA samples.


Forensic DNA Analysis

Description: This video segment from the prime time science series, NOVA: "The Killer's Trail," follows a team of experts as they investigate the forensic evidence from the 1954 murder of Marilyn Sheppard, one of the most famous unsolved crimes in U.S. history.

How does DNA fingerprinting work?

Description: How do we tell people apart by using their DNA? From murder investigations to paternity testing, DNA fingerprinting is an essential tool in the modern world. But how is it carried out? Find out in this video.