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Hair Color Forensics

January 19, 2011

DNA evidence may accurately predict an unknown suspect’s hair color.


Hair color from blood samples…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you watch crime shows, you know that you can get a suspect’s DNA from a strand of hair. Now, scientists in the Netherlands have shown that you can also predict a suspect’s hair color from their DNA. Forensic scientist Manfred Kayser of Erasmus University Medical Center says that until now, only redheads could be reliably identified by genetic markers.

MANFRED KAYSER (Erasmus University Medical Center, Netherlands):
But unfortunately the red hair color is very rare, so the practical applications of that red hair color DNA test was always very limited.

For the first time, the team found a way to tell blond from brown hair using DNA, and even distinguish between different shades of those colors. So even when there’s no hair at the crime scene, investigators may soon predict the hair color of an unknown suspect from sources like blood or saliva. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.