Study hopes to encourage use of new technology to reduce errors in DNA testing

August 17, 2020

Today's DNA testing is highly accurate, but errors still occur due to the limited genetic information accessible with current technologies. These errors can have serious impact on people's lives.

New technology has been shown to reduce the chances of false associations and should be more widely used, said Jianye Ge, PhD., Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Center for Human Identification at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. In a study titled "How Many Familial Relationship Testing Results Could Be Wrong?" Dr. Ge reviewed worldwide practices to assess the potential of errors. Co-author of the study is Dr. Bruce Budowle, Director and Professor for the Center for Human Identification.

"Millions of cases have been tested globally," Dr. Ge said. "Of those, tens of thousands of cases could have been falsely interpreted."

The paper published in PLOS Genetics points out that existing problems of paternity testing have occurred over many years. Those errors are namely unrelated individuals being falsely concluded as biological relatives and biological relatives being falsely concluded as not related, such as a biological father concluded as unrelated to a child in paternity testing cases.

"We used a realistic model to estimate that tens of thousands of cases could be wrongly interpreted over the past two decades," Dr. Ge said. "The problem is the current technology has limitations and thus improvements are needed."

Testing via short tandem repeat or STR-based technology has long been the gold standard of familial relationship testing, such as civil and criminal paternity tests, missing persons identification, and kinship verification with international migration. It is the same tool used in forensics worldwide to distinguish who may or may not have been the donor of biological evidence found at the crime scenes.

Since the STR markers for DNA typing was introduced in the late 1990s, there has not been dramatic improvements in testing.

"In the beginning, only a few STRs were used," Dr. Ge said. "That improved to 20 to 23, which is what is used now."

"The chance of a mistake with that technology is small, but because of the sheer magnitude of testing - millions of cases - errors are not uncommon." he said.

Advances in technology over the last decade allow typing of hundreds of thousands or millions of single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.

"With the high density SNP-based technology, the chance of making a mistake is substantially less likely," Dr. Ge said.

Although UNTHSC stopped providing civil paternity testing services years ago, it still uses the STR technology and information in the context of missing person cases and criminal paternity cases. Nationwide the center does about 1,000 missing persons cases a year.

"We do lots of relationship testing to determine if a missing person belongs to a family," Dr. Ge said. "We need to continue to reduce the chance of making a false conclusion."

The purpose of the study was to encourage the community to move forward to this new generation of testing. "We need to move forward so that mistakes in kinship relationship testing are less of a possibility," he said.
-end-


University of North Texas Health Science Center

Related Technology Articles from Brightsurf:

December issue SLAS Technology features 'advances in technology to address COVID-19'
The December issue of SLAS Technology is a special collection featuring the cover article, ''Advances in Technology to Address COVID-19'' by editors Edward Kai-Hua Chow, Ph.D., (National University of Singapore), Pak Kin Wong, Ph.D., (The Pennsylvania State University, PA, USA) and Xianting Ding, Ph.D., (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China).

October issue SLAS Technology now available
The October issue of SLAS Technology features the cover article, 'Role of Digital Microfl-uidics in Enabling Access to Laboratory Automation and Making Biology Programmable' by Varun B.

Robot technology for everyone or only for the average person?
Robot technology is being used more and more in health rehabilitation and in working life.

Novel biomarker technology for cancer diagnostics
A new way of identifying cancer biomarkers has been developed by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

Technology innovation for neurology
TU Graz researcher Francesco Greco has developed ultra-light tattoo electrodes that are hardly noticeable on the skin and make long-term measurements of brain activity cheaper and easier.

April's SLAS Technology is now available
April's Edition of SLAS Technology Features Cover Article, 'CURATE.AI: Optimizing Personalized Medicine with Artificial Intelligence'.

Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.

Post-lithium technology
Next-generation batteries will probably see the replacement of lithium ions by more abundant and environmentally benign alkali metal or multivalent ions.

Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom
Introducing tablets and laptops to the classroom has certain educational virtues, according to Annahita Ball, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, but her research suggests that tech has its limitations as well.

The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).

Read More: Technology News and Technology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.