Solving crimes using new face of genetics
May 19, 2010 (WPVI) -- With DNA solving so many old cases, police in Philadelphia are turning to a Pennsylvania scientist to help crack a much more recent crime. Using DNA police here have given him, he says he can give them the face of the Fairmount Park rapist.
On one single strand of DNA lies the code of life, something so complex, embedded in something that seems so simple. Among the masses of scientists hoping to understand it is Penn State professor Mark Shriver, who says, with this, he can paint a picture.
"If we have DNA, for example, at a crime scene, can we take that DNA and the reconstruct the image of a person's face?" Shriver said.
For the last several years, Professor Shriver has been meticulously collecting samples to build on that idea and he plans to one day be able day to build a face with little more to go on than a single cell. Think - a detailed police sketch of a suspect, with no eye witnesses to say what that suspect may look like. The detail comes from the DNA.
Shriver, now conducting research at Morehouse College in Atlanta, is busy building a database.
He is taking 3D photographs of thousands of people, along with their DNA, to find out how specific genes shape the face.
"The shape and size of a person's nose, how far apart their eyes are spaced, how wide their face, how tall is their face is" Shriver said.
This is the image Philadelphia police have long distributed of the suspected Fairmount park rapist. But Shriver is hoping to provide more detail or, at least, point police in a more specific direction.
Using his technology, police in Louisiana tracked down a serial killer after detectives were headed in the wrong direction. Now, Shriver and police here hope they can put this person in prison, whoever he may be, whatever he may really look like.
Shriver says he is still some time away from giving police a detailed picture, but police say they welcome any detail he provide.
pennsylvania, philadelphia, atlanta, georgia, local/state, brian taff
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