Just over twenty years ago Alec Jeffreys laid the foundation stone of modern molecular forensics with the discovery of hypervariable minisatellites and DNA fingerprinting. Before that time, precise human individualization was not feasible and the best that could be achieved by forensic scientists was an exclusion probability based on information from gene product analysis of polymorphic blood groups and protein loci or restriction fragment length polymorphisms. In contrast, with the exception of monozygotic twins, DNA fingerprints possessed the capacity to match a sample to a unique individual and this capacity to positively individualize changed the mindset of forensic science forever. Progress in forensic analysis has been rapid since the introduction of the multilocus probes, through single-locus VNTR probes and microsatellite loci to incoming approaches including single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and proteomic microarrays.

This volume brings together a collection of chapters by internationally recognized authors. The opening chapter by Simon Walsh describes the process of development within the forensic molecular biology field. It also touches briefly on the way such developments intersect with the neighbouring fields of law enforcement and the justice system. The following three chapters are dedicated to current molecular biology approaches. In Chapter 2 the principal molecular techniques are summarized, including DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing. The next two chapters are more detailed treatments of important technical issues. In Chapter 3 Marion Nagy examines automated approaches for isolating DNA from biological material and in Chapter 4 Antonio Alonso and Oscar Fernández review the different real-time PCR assays that have been applied in forensic genetics for human analysis along with some real-time PCR assays for non-human species of forensic. The following two chapters are devoted to the main polymorphic systems available to forensic science. In Chapter 5, Keiji Tamaki describes the historical development and current forensic applications of polymorphic minisatellites and microsatellites, currently the preferred choice for forensic DNA analysis. Claus B0rsting and colleagues in Chapter 6 provide an insight into the potential forensic applications of SNPs, including the possibility of identifying phenotypic characteristics from SNPs located in coding regions. The following three chapters deal with polymorphic markers located on specific chromosomes: chromosome X is dealt with by Reinhard Szibor, the mitochondrial genome, which is currently under intense investigation, by Hirokazu Matsuda and Nobuhiro

Yukawa and the Y chromosome by Manfred Keyser. The remaining chapters bring together a variety of key issues in forensic science. Laser microdissection, Chapter 10, is reviewed by Luigi Saravo and colleagues. In Chapter 11, Benoît Leclair and Tom Scholl address the crucial issues that arise with the management of forensic laboratory data. Following this, Mark Best presents the statistical background to the analysis of polymorphism data and its use in casework. The book concludes with two forward-looking contributions. Mikhail Soloviev and colleagues evaluate the use of known protein markers for quantitative protein profiling assays applicable to forensic and biometric applications, and Chris Boesch and colleagues assess the application of magnetic resonance spec-troscopy to the persistent difficulty of estimating the postmortem interval.

Ralph Rapley and David Whitehouse

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