LONDON (Reuters) - Police could one day predict the surname of male suspects or victims of crime from DNA alone, British researchers said on Wednesday.
Scientists at Leicester University, where DNA fingerprinting was invented in 1984, said they had demonstrated that men with the same surname were highly likely to be genetically linked.
The finding could help genealogy researchers as well detectives investigating crimes using traces of DNA found in blood, hair, saliva or semen.
The technique is based on analyzing DNA from the Y chromosome that imparts maleness and which, like surnames, is passed down from father to son.
Not surprisingly, the likelihood of a good genetic match depends on the rarity of the name, with the most unusual names having the strongest links.
A study of 2,500 men found that on average there was a 24 percent chance of two men with the same surname sharing a common ancestor but this increased to nearly 50 percent when the surname was rare.
Over 70 percent of men with surnames such as Attenborough and Swindlehurst shared the same or near identical Y chromosome types.
"The fact that such a strong link exists between surname and Y chromosome type has a potential use in forensic science, since it suggests that, given large databases of names and Y chromosome profiles, surname prediction from DNA alone may be feasible," said Turi King, who will present her research at a lecture on Wednesday.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Matthew Jones