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This Gun Shoots Criminals With DNA

This new gun shoots the bad guys with artificial DNA, that can then be traced back and identified

smithsonian.com

Image: SelectDNA

According to most crime television shows, DNA is a criminal’s worst nightmare. But now DNA that’s not even their own might help implicate them. This new gun actually shoots the bad guys with artificial DNA, that can then be traced back and identified. Should someone be caught who had been pelted with this DNA paint ball, authorities could easily shine a light on them and see the paint fluoresce. Discovery reports:

Each batch of pellets has its own DNA signature, so a person who was hit with one could be tied to certain event, since a police officer would be using different pellets on different days.

It’s even possible to identify people long after the fact: the DNA, according to the company, sticks to clothing through several washings and to skin for about two weeks. The DNA isn’t alive, so there’s no danger of it mutating or causing any health problems.

Using DNA to track criminals isn’t new. The military often tags electronics and mechanical parts with DNA, to track and verify components, says Tech News Daily:

In the next month, certain kinds of electronic components sold to the military will have to be tagged with an artificial DNA sequence, which will, its designers say, make it well nigh impossible to ship a fake piece of equipment.

For the military it’s a big issue, because the chips that go into a fighter jet, helicopter or infrared night vision goggles are built to exacting specifications. If the circuits don’t work, a plane might not fly — or worse, fly with a malfunctioning piece of vital equipment. In November 2011, a Senate Armed Services Committee investigation found 1,800 instances of suspect parts, and the committee grilled contractors about their supply chains.

Here’s what the system looks like. The company who makes it, Select DNA, writes:

Available in pistol and rifle form, this new and practical concept allows police and military to remain at a safe distance (up to 30-40 metres) from a potential target while deploying the SelectaDNA High Velocity pellet.

By using the new SelectaDNA High Velocity System, a uniquely-coded DNA pellet can be used to mark an individual so that they can be apprehended at a less confrontational time for officers.

Of course, that requires actually catching the person eventually. Which isn’t a given. But it certainly makes identifying a criminal easier once they’re in custody.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Books of the Future May Be Written in DNA
Quick and Cheap DNA Sequencing On the Horizon?

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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