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How DNA Leads to Proof of Paternity Genetic History and DNA Paternity Testing

Genetic History and DNA Paternity Testing

Before the use of DNA testing was wide spread blood testing was used to eliminate potential fathers. Although this process could be useful for determining if a man was not the biological parent of a child, it could not prove that a man was the father with complete certainty. DNA paternity testing on the other hand provides results that are nearly 100% accurate in determining paternity. The results are also admissible in a court of law for determining paternity, custody, inheritance, as well as for settling immigration issues. The American Pregnancy Organization points out the importance of paternity testing for genetic screening for disease and well-child care.

So how does DNA paternity testing establish the genetic makeup of a child?  An individual’s genetic makeup is unique.  It is a combination of both parents; 50% from the father and 50% from the mother.  Combined the DNA is 99.9% a perfect mix of the two sets of DNA. Identical twins will share this unique combination, but no one else will.

DNA itself is composed of 4 bases that are represented by the letters A, G, C, and T. These bases form the strands of DNA and are like a blueprint or code that will ultimately spell out the genetic characteristics of an individual. While all people have the same bases the code is not sequenced the same. For instance, every thousand or so letters will be different between two people; a C instead of a G perhaps.

Testers use enzymes called restriction enzymes that are proteins to cut segments of DNA that occur at specific points along the DNA following a sequence of bases. They can then compare the sections between the potential father, the mother and the child.  DNA paternity testing doesn’t rely on a single section or stretch to determine a child’s parentage; several segments are examined. When the child is compared with the mother, any remaining DNA in the child’s profile will be a match with the father.

A persons DNA will also be similar to that of their close relatives as well. For instance, it’s possible to do DNA paternity testing using close relatives such as that of a grandparent or sibling if the father is not available using a test such as DNA fingerprinting. Samples may be extracted from numerous locations using several procedures including drawing blood or having a swap done from the inside of the mouth along the inside of the cheeks. The swab method using a buccal swab has become increasingly popular for a few reasons. For example, the process is simple, painless, produces no bio hazard waste (blood), and is quickly administered. Edward S. Nunes explains various testing procedures in an article The Case for Maternity and Paternity DNA Testing.

There is a rigid protocol used for DNA paternity testing that is court ordered or that is used in civil cases to protect the purity of the samples. The procedure involves verifying the identity of all parties using proper IDs. In addition, the samples are protected using chain of custody rules to assure that all samples are rigorously protected.