Putting an End to Counterfeits and Criminals at Their Roots, DNA Style

Composite image of dna helix interface

(DGIwire) — Earlier this year, a historic agreement was reached between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the family of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American mother of five who died from cervical cancer more than 50 years ago. Following her death in 1951 at age 31, some of Lacks’ cancer cells were taken by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and used, without her family’s prior knowledge and consent, to create the polio vaccine and other life-saving developments to treat herpes, influenza, Parkinson’s disease and leukemia.

Many are familiar with Lacks’ name due to the 2010 New York Times bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Not only did it force NIH to finally make good with Lacks’ family—explicitly mandating that her genome data will now be accessible only to those who apply for and are granted permission—it also shed new light on vast research involving DNA, and how it can be used for innovation.

DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the fundamental building block of a living being’s entire genetic makeup. It can be found virtually everywhere in the world—from discarded soda cans to cigarettes to gum to tissues to hair strands. When used legitimately, DNA testing has many problem-solving benefits beyond medical research.

Consider Stony Brook, NY-based Applied DNA Sciences. The highly respected provider of plant DNA-based product authentication and security solutions recently announced the rollout of their signature DNAnet® intruder tagging systems. Their purpose is to help expand and strengthen any security effort by providing a means of directly linking criminals to crimes.

In the event of a theft, a fleeing offender is sprayed with indelible DNA-marked fluorescing dye. As the crime is investigated, the fluorescing DNA mark can assist police in linking the offender to the crime scene. For special operations, the company can create unique DNA codes to mark security inks, thermal transfer ribbons, laser toners, adhesives and other carriers that can be used to print time/date-sensitive or confidential documents.

“Those who engage in theft of DNA-marked items are more likely to be apprehended as a result of our technology,” explains Dr. James A. Hayward, President and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences. “While no system is foolproof, we believe we have come up with a viable remedy for helping to stem the flow of these egregious acts.”

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