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Research: Enough DNA samples will be collected to match every American

Posted at 2:40 PM, Oct 19, 2018

DNA researchers are making a big prediction. In just a few years, they'll have enough DNA samples to match every person in the country. That's even if you've never taken one of those ancestry DNA tests.

This is all thanks to those ancestry test kits. If someone’s relative takes the test, enough information is provided for scientists to link to you.

"Yes, eventually everyone's going to be traceable through DNA," says Itsik Pe’er, an associate professor at Columbia University.

It also means solving crimes could get a lot easier.  Police have already started taking DNA from unknown suspects and comparing it to DNA databases.

That information can lead to a match to a suspect’s relative.

"People want to connect to their long-lost second, third, fourth cousins and find those matches,” says Pe’er. “The flip side of that is that, yeah, investigators can find those matches due to DNA that have been sitting in these warehouses for decades."

Pe'er is the co-author of a study at Columbia University that says scientists only need a 2 percent sample from the roughly 326 million people in the United States to be able to match anyone's DNA.

Privacy experts worry that even people who have never committed a crime might not want to be matched to relatives.

But it's a fact of science as the DNA sample continues to grow.

"It's just still incredible to think about, you know, like we live in such a big world, but it's really, really small," Pe’er says.

Private companies are working to protect their databases, including places like My Heritage and 23andMe that prohibit forensic use of their databases in their user agreements.