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The remarkable technique used to identify the suspected "Golden State Killer" four decades after his crimes—genetic genealogy—could be used to identify half of all Americans from relatives' DNA samples, a new study says.
And only a few years from now, the process could be used to track nearly all Americans of European descent by making DNA matches with distant relatives, the authors of the study predict.
Research - Thursday - US - Journal - Science
The research, published Thursday in the US journal Science, could have wide-ranging privacy implications—if someone uses a consumer website to trace his ancestry, should that information be used to identify his kin, possibly in a criminal case?
"We are on our way to get to the point that virtually anyone will have a third cousin in those databases," said Yaniv Erlich, the chief science officer at the MyHeritage website, and senior author of the study.
"I predict it will happen within two to three years."
A person and his or her third cousin have the same great-great-grandparents. With a second cousin, one shares great-grandparents.
Closer - Relative - Make-up
The closer you are with a relative, the more similar your genetic make-up is.
Even in the case of third cousins, the human genome—or the information encoded in a person's DNA—is very much alike.
Police - DNA - Sample - Anyone - Database
When police find a DNA sample that does not match anyone in their database, a criminal investigation can come to a dead end.
In California, police had been at that point for decades in the case of the so-called Golden State Killer, who is blamed for 12 murders and more than 50 rapes dating back to the mid-1970s.
DNA - Sample - Website - GEDmatch - Users
Then they uploaded his DNA sample to a free website called GEDmatch, which allows users to post DNA test results in text format.
The site then generates a list of people with similar genomes, ranked from the closest to the most distant—with names and email addresses.
Golden - State
In the Golden State...
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