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Method developed by the British geneticist Alec Jeffreys (born 1950) in 1984 for isolating and making images of sequences of DNA. The procedure consists of obtaining a sample of cells containing DNA (e.g., from skin, blood, or hair), extracting the DNA, and purifying it. The DNA is then cut by enzymes, and the resulting fragments of varying lengths undergo procedures that permit them to be analyzed. The pattern of fragments is unique for each individual. DNA fingerprinting is used to help solve crimes and determine paternity; it is also used to locate gene segments that cause genetic diseases, to map the genetic material of humans (seeHuman Genome Project), to engineer drought-resistant plants (seegenetic engineering), and to produce biological drugs from genetically altered cells.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on DNA fingerprinting, visit Britannica.com.