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Killer's Fingerprint
14 August 2015

Killer's Fingerprint

Genetic fingerprinting is best known as a way of detecting crime – but may also be used to track down potential killers inside our bodies. We all have friendly bacteria in our digestive system but sometimes villainous bugs sneak in with the crowd – such as Helicobacter pylori (pictured, false-coloured orange), which can cause chronic gastritis and is believed to increase the risk of the stomach cancer, adenocarcinoma. In a laboratory experiment, human stomach cells were infected with these sausage-shaped bacteria, causing damage to the cells’ DNA. When this changed DNA was compared with that of a range of human cancer cells, there was a marked similarity with adenocarcinoma cells. This type of genetic fingerprinting could help to identify which bacteria in our bodies are potential killers, so that infections can be treated with more urgency.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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