This week's Nature has a fantastic contribution from Alec Jeffreys' lab
demonstrating the feasibility of DNA fingerprinting with a digital (hexal)
output. The reference is Jeffreys et.al. Nature 354 p204-209 (Nov 21,
1991). Essentially, distinctive information is derived from sequence
heterogeneity in hypervariable DNA, and the output is read in terms of
binary combinations of 3 states, a-type, t-type, and null (0), thus, aa,
at, tt, a0, t0, and 00 loci are identified in 30 to 50 repeat domains,
which are enough for identification of individuals at the level of about 1
in 10^^7. See the paper for their analysis... it's really very good.
We will be implementing this approach for identification of individuals,
and would like to have some simple software (mac or maybe pc based) to
store and analyze the data.
The reference above uses a VAX-based system, and may have versions that
they don't mention on small computers... but it seems that one of you
bio-hackers could write a good simple program with an easy interface in a
couple of hours. If you do I and many other folks would be interested.
I predict that this approach will revolutionize DNA fingerprinting for
medical and forensic applications.
If you're interested in working up a small program for this purpose, I can
offer input for what would be needed. Dr. Jeffreys himself might be
interested in offering advice too.
It's just occurred to me that many of the DNA or peptide analysis programs
might be adaptable for this purpose. Hmmm.