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Human trafficking is one of the most frequent and profitable crimes today. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 1.2 million children are victims of human trafficking throughout 161 countries. Most of these victims are sold into illegal adoptions, exploited physically or die without identification. Using genetic analysis, law enforcement agencies are able to generate DNA profiles of missing children and ultimately return them to their families.

With the use of PCR, DNA profiling can now work with damaged or smaller amounts of DNA and less labor is required than with earlier techniques using restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. The PCR-based method analyzes variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs). VNTRs are short sequences of bases that are repeated over and over again. If this DNA region (or loci) is particularly short (1-5 bases long), then it is called a short tandem repeat (STR). The length of repeats is highly variable in the population, but is similar between closely related individuals. The more STR regions that are tested in an individual, the more discriminating the test becomes; thus STR analysis provides an excellent identification tool. For example, if examining 13 different STR loci, the odds that two random individuals would share the same patterns by chance are approximately one in 1 billion or greater.

Today, groups like DNA PROKIDS, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking, make it possible to reunite kidnapped children with their parents with the use of DNA testing.

Watch this story as Brenda explained it to Life Technologies employees when she expressed a heartfelt thank you to the makers of the DNA analysis human identification product that reunited her with her daughter.

Learn more about Life Technologies Human Identification Products used in this case and others like it.

Asplen C(2012) Fighting Back Against the Worst of Nature and Human Nature. Forensic Magazine.
Jeffreys AJ et al. (1984) Hypervariable minisatellite regions in human DNA. Nature 314: 67-73.
U.S. Department of Justice (2002) “Using DNA to solve cold cases”.
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