DNA profiling

After 60 years of DNA discovery, DNA profiling continues to revolutionise forensic science and the investigation of crime worldwide.

DNA profiling is a process of identifying a specific pattern of DNA from a person or sample of bodily tissue. ESR provides a range of DNA profiling techniques to the criminal justice community in New Zealand and around the world.

As profiling of DNA, and its sister compound RNA, continues to evolve, ESR is at the forefront of research and development in this area with a thriving research programme and product development.

DNA helixESR's DNA profiling is used routinely to:

  • investigate a wide range of crimes from burglaries to homicides
  • identify suspects and exclude the innocent, reducing police investigation time
  • solve historic cases
  • assist in the reconstruction of crimes and crime scenes
  • assist in identifying human remains, including those from disaster events
  • assist in forensic paternity investigations.

The techniques currently on offer at ESR include:

  • Standard DNA profiling tests used to deliver highly discriminating results in most cases
  • Low copynumber (LCN) DNA profiling tests for highly sensitive testing of very small amounts of DNA
  • Minifiler™ DNA profiling used for analysing very degraded DNA
  • Y STR DNA profiling used for selective analysis of the Y chromosome found only in males
  • mRNA analysis for the detection of body fluids
  • Laser microdissection for the isolation of specific cells for further testing.

All of these techniques use a method known as the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to obtain profiles. This is a standard technique used to amplify or selectively copy specific regions of DNA or RNA many times. In this way, minimal amounts of DNA or RNA isolated from small or degraded samples can be increased to a level where they are able to be detected, profiled and compared with other samples.

In addition, ESR uses the ESR-developed STRmix(external link) – a powerful tool developed to help interpret complex mixtures of DNA.

ESR and New Zealand Police have spent two years co-designing a safe and privacy conscious approach to conducting forensic investigative genetic genealogy, supporting efforts to solve cold cases and indentify unidentified human remains. Our transparency statement can be found here.

To find out more about ESR's DNA profiling techniques, read the DNA Techniques Available Use in Forensic Casework [PDF, 3.1 MB] or visit the Science Learning Hub's DNA profiling webpage(external link). Or email -