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Surprising Science

A Gun That Tags Its Target With Artificial DNA

Used by police in riot situations, it could help identify perpetrators long after the event is over: The DNA “sticks to clothing through several washings and to skin for about two weeks.”

What’s the Latest Development?

UK-based SelectDNA has developed what it’s calling a “High Velocity DNA Tagging System.” Designed for law enforcement, it consists of a type of paintball gun that shoots pellets containing artificial DNA. Each set of pellets contains a unique signature, which helps to link it to the officer with the gun and/or the event at which the gun was used: a riot, for example. The DNA appears under ultraviolet light, and although it’s nontoxic, it lasts a very long time, enabling police to identify people who were at the event long after it took place. 

What’s the Big Idea?

DNA tagging is already used in other applications for parts tracking and property identification. The use of a gun to tag people comes with some troubling implications, notes writer Jesse Emspak: “The DNA marker could tie a person to an event, but it doesn’t say anything about what they were doing at the time…Then there is the question of arresting people after the fact when they take part in protests. Certainly many [governments] that take a dimmer view of political dissent might see this as a great way to tag people for future identification.”

Ronen /

Read it at Discovery News


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