Could criminals alter their own DNA using CRISPR kits to evade justice?



Wanted criminals could alter their own DNA through over-the-counter kits which use the CRISPR technique[1]. Created to combat certain hereditary diseases such as sickle cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, these "revolutionary” kits can "change the person's genetic make-up", and are available online for about £150.

 

Professor George Church of Harvard University pointed out that this type of kit "could also be used by criminals to disappear from forensic databases or escape searches. […] That would make forensic evidence unusable". Today, with a stem cell transplant, "you have a new identity," says the Professor, even if it has to be done under sterile conditions and then irradiated to remove the old cells.

 

Dr. Alexander Gray, from the Leverhulme Research Centre at the University of Dundee, said that "genetic editing in the livers of mice had shown the new DNA eventually takes over, replacing the genetic code". He assumes that it is more difficult in humans but recognises that "if you were in the forensic database and you changed your DNA it would be possible to avoid detection".

 

[1] CRISPR-Cas9 is a recent, ground-breaking genetic engineering technique under development since 2012. It can be used to modify the genome of any organism. It uses a natural mechanism of protecting bacteria against viruses to test for and cut out a sequence in a genome (hence its nickname "genetic scissors" or "DNA scissors" [Psychomedia]).


Sources: 

Daily Mail, George Martin (06/05/2018)