14 November 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 633
How Does DNA Fingerprinting Work?
By the Naked Scientists
Thursday 27 October 2011
Have you ever wondered how criminals are identified using their DNA, or how DNA paternity tests can prove whether a man is the father of a baby? Both are done using a technique called 'DNA fingerprinting' and the latest video in the Naked Scientists' scrapbook series explains neatly how this works.
'How Does DNA Fingerprinting Work?' is part of a short video series explaining scientific concepts whilst an artist sketches explanatory notes and images to aid understanding.
In approximately five minutes the movie covers a brief history of the discovery of DNA fingerprints by Sir Alec Jeffreys in 1984, followed by an explanation of what they are and how they can be examined and compared. Finally, it touches on the current applications of DNA fingerprinting and moral issues associated with its use.
The explanations are clear, detailed and fairly easy to follow. However, the use of many technical terms means that although they are explained, the video requires careful concentration and those unfamiliar with the terminology may find they need to watch it more than once to understand the concepts fully.
The sketches are mostly useful and certainly add a bit of lively visual interest but are occasionally slightly distracting as you might find yourself reading the text but then missing what the narrator is saying.
Overall, I felt the scientific content was accurate and presented in a reasonably accessible way, but the level of detail may go a little beyond the interest and comprehension of the general public.
I would recommend it as an excellent learning aid for, for example, a teacher livening up an A-level biology class on genetics; or to anyone with an interest in forensics or genetics, and a reasonable general knowledge on the subject who's after a more detailed explanation.
The Naked Scientists are a group of medics and scientific researchers from University of Cambridge who aim 'to strip science down to its bare essentials and promote it to the general public' through a variety of media.
They organise live lectures and regularly update their informative website content, as well as producing a self-titled weekly radio show on the BBC to help answer the public's questions on a range of scientific fields. Their website is open-access and the 'scrapbook' videos are available for download to mp3 players.