DNA can show hair colour of criminals

Forensic investigators will now be able to tell the hair color of an unknown perpetrator from DNA traces.

Erasmus MC scientists have been able to determine with an accuracy of more than 90 percent whether a person has red or black hair, and with an accuracy of more than 80 percent whether a person’s hair color is blond or brown.

They can even distinguish between red and reddish blond, or between blond and dark blond hair. It can only give the color of head hair, though, with the team saying more research would be needed to predict body hair color.

The necessary DNA can be taken from blood, sperm, saliva or other biological materials.

“That we are now making it possible to predict different hair colors from DNA represents a major breakthrough because, so far, only red hair color, which is rare, could be estimated from DNA,” said Professor Manfred Kayser, Chair of the Department of Forensic Molecular Biology at Erasmus MC.

The team used DNA and hair color information of hundreds of Europeans and identified 13 DNA markers from 11 genes that helped to predict a person’s hair color.

“This research lays the scientific basis for the development of a DNA test for hair color prediction,” said Professor Ate Kloosterman of the Department of Human Biological Traces at the Netherlands Forensic Institute.

“A validated DNA test system for hair color shall become available for forensic research in the not too distant future.”