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Tomorrow's world of DNA technology

The way we are incorporating DNA technology into our daily lives now goes well beyond medical discoveries, as organisations explore increasingly innovative and commercial ways to utilise genetic science. Based on what DNA is being used for now, the future possibilities are many and varied. Here’s our top 5 of the most interesting uses of DNA which are here now, or soon will be

Doggy DNA – testing the DNA of dogs to determine their exact pedigree and breeding is relatively commonplace, but our fascination with canine DNA hasn’t stopped there. Some companies are now offering advanced healthcare advice for dog owners, using a dog’s DNA to determine what diseases they are predisposed to and advising on preventative testing – and even what food they should be eating – for optimum health.

DNA dating – the theory behind DNA dating is that social compatibility is only half of the ingredients needed for a successful romantic partnership; the other element is biological. The idea is based on a scientific study which showed that women preferred men whose HLA (human leukocyte antigen) molecules were most different to their own. So by comparing their genes, it’s possible to see whether a couple are biologically matched and will enjoy good chemistry and a higher chance of a successful long term relationship.

Bringing back extinct species – while the chances of creating a real Jurassic Park are pretty slim as dinosaur DNA is 65 million years old and too degraded to use, it may be possible to bring back species which died out more recently like the dodo or woolly mammoth. DNA can be extracted from remains, sequenced and injected into the egg of a related species. Scientists are currently trying this method with woolly mammoth DNA in an elephant egg.

Using DNA for data storage – DNA is an incredibly efficient way to store data, and in the future it may be possible for scientists to encode data using DNA. Scientists would assign numbers and letters to a unique string of A,C,G and T, and then produce strands of synthetic DNA, which could be extracted by a DNA sequencing machine at a later date. Scientists have already been able to fit 700 TB of data (roughly 1 million CDs) into a single gram of DNA. DNA could also be used to build biological computers

Infidelity testing – there’s big money in divorce, so its no surprise that DNA testing has already made a leap to the aid of people who suspect their husband or wife is cheating on them. Simply send off a suspicious sample of bedding or clothing, and the lab will tell you the number of male/female DNA donors present and a pretty good indication of whether your spouse has been playing away.

These are just a selection of what we think are the most interesting and unusual uses for DNA science and genetic testing but there is certainly much more to come. There is the potential for DNA and genetic technology to infiltrate every aspect of our daily lives, in the same way as computers or mobile phones have.

For example, your DNA may be increasingly used as absolute, indisputable proof of your identity and your property, as the trend for biometric identification evolves. Your DNA could be used in place of your passport for travel, to authorise payments or even to start your car. The possibilities really are endless, and we predict that the only limits to the use of this technology will be our imagination.

What do you think of Paramount’s top 5? What do you think might be possible 10 years from now? Is there a use for DNA that you would like to see pioneered? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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19th April

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