DNA Polymorphism Offers High Resolution

DNA is the molecule that contains all the genetic information of an individual. One person's DNA is made up of about three billion building blocks known as nucleotides or bases. Every organism in the world has a unique DNA sequence except for identical twins. Although identical twins accrue changes as they develop, they generally do not accumulate enough genetic differences for DNA typing to be useful. Portions of the DNA, called genes, encode proteins within the sequence of bases. Genes are separated by long stretches of noncoding DNA. Because these sequences do not have to code for functional proteins, they are free to accumulate more differences over time, and thus provide more variation than genes. Thus, they are more useful than gene sequences in distinguishing individuals.

Polymorphisms are differences between individuals that occur in DNA sequences which occupy the same locus in the chromosome. An individual will have only one sequence at a particular polymorphic locus in each chromosome, but if the population bears several to dozens of different possible sequences at the site in question, then the locus is considered "highly variable" within the population. DNA profiling determines which polymorphisms a person has at a small number of these highly variable loci. Because of this, DNA profiling can provide high resolution in distinguishing different individuals. The chances of one person having the same DNA profile as another are typically much less than the chances of winning a lottery.

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