Unique DNA database to identify genetic variation among Emiratis

A team of researchers from three continents have been working collaboratively with Khalifa University and the Abu Dhabi Police to identify genetic variation among Emiratis using a special kit which breaks down DNA samples, the university announced on Monday.

The team, which consists of representatives from the University of Western Australia, Khalifa University, the University of Central Lancashire and the Abu Dhabi Forensic laboratory, was able to identify DNA traits specific to Emiratis (namely DNA referred to as Short Tandem Repeat (STR) markers).

This database joins others from around the world that identify DNA specific to other ethnicities.

These databases can be used to identify the ethnic background of a victim or perpetrator from DNA samples found at a crime scene, making it easier for law enforcement officials to track down criminals, or the identities of unknown victims.

"Analysing STR markers has become the preferred method among forensic scientists because of the already existing databases around the world, and the availability of STR DNA analysis kits," said Dr. Habiba Alsafar, Director of Khalifa University Biotechnology Centre, and one of the main researchers in the study.

"There is enough information in international databases to determine whether or not a tested sample is from a documented ethnicity, which makes it easier for law enforcement officials to narrow down who they are looking for. There are at least 21 STR markers that have been studied extensively in six continents. However there was very limited information on STR markers unique to Emiratis before this study," she added.

"Those 21 STR DNA markers have been used successfully to identify individuals, for paternity testing and for analysing evidence from crime scenes in the UAE, and we can now add DNA traits we have identified that are unique to the local population to our database," Osamah Alhmoudi, Captain at Abu Dhabi Forensic Laboratory, said.

The information collected by the team has been published and is available in the Forensic Science International Genetics Journal for use by law enforcement agencies throughout the region.

The team intends to use the kit in the future to identify DNA traits unique to other ethnic subpopulations in the UAE.

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