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Using DNA to Solve Cold Cases Just Got a Lot Easier, Thanks to Math

7 Nov 2022 9:21 AM | Anonymous

Scientists say using math to sort through DNA could help investigators put stubborn cold cases to rest. The approach combines the relatively new field of forensic genetic genealogy – solving crime by charting out DNA-based family trees – with increasing computational power to speed up and simplify this complex form of investigation

In a new paper recently published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, researchers from Stanford University, California-based Identifinders, and the DNA Doe Project explain how they developed a new mathematical model to help investigators greatly narrow down their giant pools of genetic candidates: 

”We formulate a program that – given the list of matches and their genetic distances to the unknown target – chooses the best decision at each point in time: which match to investigate, which set of potential most recent common ancestors to descend from, or whether to terminate the investigation.” 

By using a decision tree to optimize the candidate search, the researchers say their new process improves the existing process for forensic genetic genealogy by a factor of 10. They can also use this protocol to pull relevant matches even from large pools with a low likelihood of success. 

In fact, the new algorithm is so effective that researchers say it “can solve a case with a 7,500-person family tree around 94% of the time,” compared to only 4% of the time with the current method, according to a Stanford University press release. Basically, it’s a great way to speed up and enrich the research investigators are already doing – like turning your regular bicycle into an e-bike. 

You can read a lot more of the details in an article published in the 4StateNews web site at:


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