An American University chemist has developed a new process to speed up DNA identification, a key to solving missing-in-action cases from Vietnam, determining the identities of plane crash victims, and proving guilt in criminal cases.
Professor James Girard is using laser technology to analyze multiple samples of DNA simultaneously. The process can identify a person in just a few minutes instead of the usual days or weeks.
"Our work is focused on doing more sophisticated and faster DNA typing. The military is very interested for cases of unidentified bodies," Mr. Girard said in an interview at his lab.
"Maybe the family of the killed soldier kept his electric razor in a carton. And maybe you can find skin samples on it. Or on the clothes in the closet. This fellow could even have written love letters and licked stamps, and we have saliva that we can use for DNA research," Mr. Girard said.
"The military doesn't want to have this problem again, so that's why we now have blood cards," he explained. Since 1993, all soldiers are required to give blood samples for DNA identification.
Mr. Girard is conducting his research at a university lab and at the world's premier DNA identification lab, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville.
Under a cooperative agreement between the institute and American University, he is using a $350,000 mass spectrometer that employs laser technology to analyze multiple samples of DNA simultaneously. …