The Forensic DNA Group offers teaching within UWA and to other universities and industry groups, and supports a number of Masters and PhD research programs.
These programs are focused on four key areas:
Contemporary DNA profiling is based on DNA markers known as microsatellites or Variable Number Tandem Repeats (VNTR).
DNA screening using other types of DNA markers (for example, repetitive elements and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) has been used to identify unique ethnic specific patterns.
In collaboration with the Forensic Anthropology Group, combined with understanding of the migration patterns of ethnic groups, it is possible to build a DNA database of specific markers that will allow forensic scientists to provide an indication of the ethnic background of an individual of interest from crime scene specimens.
The application of DNA profiling is not simply restricted to humans.
In collaboration with the Forensic Entomology Group, our DNA projects have been used to subtype insect larvae towards refining predictions of post-mortem intervals (or PMIs).
DNA testing has also been used to profile animal and plant material to collect evidentiary information used in the prosecution of fraud cases.
DNA testing applications have also been adapted to microorganisms.
Within the Centre, DNA sequencing has been used to distinguish between strains of viruses. These viral sequences have been used in conjunction with other evidence to determine the source of viral infections.
The ability to show the direction of transmission of sexually transmitted viruses such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) have been useful in the prosecution of sex crimes.
DNA markers used to profile specific strains of bacteria are used for fine-typing of virulent strains for medical applications (for example, MRSA). The same DNA profiling technology, used in conjunction with the principles of epidemiology, is adaptable as a tool to identify the source of food poisoning.
DNA profiles to characterise microbial strains used in bio-weapons can be useful for formulating antidotes.
The use of antibody-based profiling methods provides an opportunity to distinguish between identical twins who share the same DNA sequence, as individuals are likely to be exposed to different antigens such as viruses, bacteria, and other particles that can mount an immune response in an individual.
We welcome enquiries from science honours and postgraduate students interested in becoming part of this exciting research.