From answering questions about long-lost relatives to solving complex crimes, the uses of DNA are many and varied. To demonstrate just how varied these uses are, here's a list of just some of the things scientists can use DNA testing to do:
1) Catch a Cheating Spouse
Modern technology makes it easy for your spouse to develop and maintain intimate relationships on the sly. Infidelity DNA testing can examine your spouse's dirty underwear for the presence of incriminating DNA - and it will probably cost you less than a private investigator.
2) Scold Lazy Dog Owners
If you are tired of stepping in dog poo when walking from your car to your front door, you can send a sample of the offending poo to a lab for analysis. Scientists can then match the DNA to a worldwide database of dog DNA, enabling you to potentially track the dog's owner and give them a piece of your mind!
3) Help Solve Crimes
Even the most elusive of criminals fail to remove all traces of their DNA from crime scenes. It is possible to extract DNA from many sources, including semen left on bedding, saliva left on the ends of discarded cigarette stubs, and hair strands. The identification of DNA can help to convict both one-time and serial offenders.
4) Test Your Food
When it comes to buying food, you may firmly believe that you get what you pay for. However, this assumption does not always hold true. Scientists can perform DNA testing on a range of pricey foods to determine whether food producers really are delivering the foods they claim to be delivering. While the cost of DNA testing all the items on your dinner plate would cause the price of your grocery shopping to skyrocket, scientists regularly perform DNA testing on food samples such as meat and fish, and in a recent high-profile case it was used to identify horse DNA in meat being passed off as beef.
5) Find Your Perfect Partner
If you are having trouble finding your perfect match or feel your current love interest is just not that into you, DNA testing can steer you in the right direction by helping you to find a partner with a compatible genetic code.
6) Create Personalised Cosmetics
If you are concerned that your expensive lotions and potions are not banishing your lines and wrinkles in the way that they should, you can send a mouth swab off to a lab specialising in the creation of tailor-made beauty products and they will create you a set of personalised beauty products based on your DNA. If, for example, your mouth swap tests positive for variations in the genes that influence your collagen production, they will ensure that your beauty products contain ingredients designed to counteract the effects of these variations. Similarly, you can ask a lab specialising in personalised fragrances to create an exclusive fragrance formulation based on your genetic code.
7) Trace Distant Relatives
Ancestry DNA testing can help you to increase your understanding of the origins of your ancestors. Like it or not, your ancestors will have stamped an indelible mark on your DNA, certain regions of which will code for ancestry. Through laboratory analysis, it is possible for scientists to identify the anthropological groups and geographical areas from which you descend.
8) Identify Health Problems
Scientists can study gene variations called polymorphisms to predict your predisposition to a range of diseases, including heart disease and cancer. While the thought of undergoing such testing may seem daunting, the results can provide you with the encouragement you need to make important changes to your diet and lifestyle.
While DNA testing has already contributed to advances in science, it is likely to continue to increase in significance over the coming years. Where do you see it heading? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Written by Mark Higgins, a student of forensic science with a strong interest in DNA.