Book Review of Forensic DNA Typing: Biology and Technology Behind STR Markers (by Butler), by Shea (Forensic Science Communications, January 2002)
January 2002 - Volume 4 - Number 1
Forensic DNA Typing: Biology and Technology Behind STR Markers
By John M. Butler
Academic Press, San Diego, California, 2001
Brendan F. Shea
DNA Analysis 1 Unit
Federal Bureau of Investigation
In his endeavor to explain short tandem repeats (STRs), the author takes on the unenviable challenge of attempting to write a book for two distinctly different groups of readers: "forensic scientists who wish to gain a better understanding of STRs, and professionals in the law enforcement and legal communities who find it hard to comprehend the complexities of DNA profiling." With this in mind, John M. Butler has done an excellent job. Forensic DNA Typing provides a wealth of general and background information on STRs and details on current and future technologies employed in forensic DNA typing.
The book begins with an overview and history of DNA typing, followed by the bulk of the book which is divided into two sections, biology and technology. The biology section provides background on basic DNA structure and terminology, as well as information on the preparatory stages leading up to DNA typing (including sample collection, preservation, storage, extraction, purification, and quantitation). This is followed by a thorough review of the PCR process and background information to help the reader understand STRs. Chapters six and seven provide significant insight into STR typing results that are commonly seen in forensic samples. The biology portion of the book concludes with information on other DNA typing methods, including Y-chromosome STRs, mtDNA, Alu repeats, and SNPs.
The majority of the second half of the book is dedicated to explaining the technology behind DNA typing, specifically focusing on STR analysis. The topic areas include different forms of electrophoretic separation, detection methods, and the equipment that can be used to conduct the testing. There is also a brief chapter on the genotyping process and interpreting results, followed by a fine chapter laying out the basics of validation. The book concludes by covering some of the new technologies on the horizon and the principles of CODIS and DNA databases. This is followed by some high-profile case examples.
Included in the appendices is a wealth of information about reported STR alleles, some helpful information such as the National DNA Standards (these are sometimes referred to as the DNA Advisory Board [DAB] Standards), and a list of suppliers of DNA typing-related products and services.
Overall, I would strongly recommend this book as a training aid for new analysts or a DNA typing reference for forensic scientists. As far as targeting professionals in the law enforcement and legal communities, the book definitely contains some valuable information for those groups but may be too technical to be a pleasant read.
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