New DNA Test Reveals Hair Color of Crime Suspects

Any "CSI" fan would love to get his or her hands on this: a DNA test that allows forensic investigators to determine whether a suspected perpetrator has brown, blond, black or red hair. Researchers have now come up with the basis for such a test.

The study singled out DNA markers that identified red hair and black hair color with an accuracy of more than 90 percent, and blond or brown hair with an accuracy of more than 80 percent. The technique even allowed researchers to ascertain different color hues of hair, such as blond versus dark blond.

"That we are now making it possible to predict different hair colors from DNA represents a major breakthrough because, so far, only red hair color, which is rare, could be estimated from DNA," said Manfred Kayser, head of forensic molecular biology at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Kayser and his colleagues used DNA and hair color information from hundreds of Europeans to close in on 13 DNA markers (or particular segments of DNA) from 11 genes. Their work is detailed in the Jan. 3 issue of the journal Human Genetics.

The same group previously used DNA to try to predict eye color and estimate age – information that could prove equally as valuable to forensic investigators who find traces of DNA left behind by suspected perpetrators.

"A validated DNA test system for hair color shall become available for forensic research in the not-too-distant future," said Ate Kloosterman, a researcher from the department of human biological traces at the Netherlands Forensic Institute.

These latest findings only apply to predicting the color of hair on the head. Future work is needed to help predict the color of body hair.

Live Science Staff
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