STR-technology: DNA analysis of minute samples

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The short tandem repeat (STR) technology was invented as a novel DNA analysis method at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen, by Prof. Dr Diethard Tautz and Prof. Dr Herbert Jäckle. It is used worldwide for identity determination in paternity tests or in criminalistics.

The technology makes use of typical, stuttering sequences (known as short tandem repeats) in the genome of an individual, i.e. multiple repeats of short sequences of DNA building blocks. The exact sequence and number of these repeats are as typical for an individual as a fingerprint, so that the method can be broadly used to determine the origin of cell and tissue samples.

In contrast to conventional methods, STR technology is not only faster, but also more precise. Above all, it can be used to analyse DNA from minute samples, even if they are already partly disintegrated or dried up. Today, the technology is essential for the determination of an individual's identity, e.g. if, after a criminal offence, it is necessary to determine the origin of skin cells, blood or sperm samples. The technique also has applications in plant breeding.