Next-generation kinship deduction for forensic and genealogical analysis

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Health Sciences


The use of DNA analysis to determine familial relationships is well established. In the paternity test, a small number of polymorphic markers (usually short-tandem repeats [STRs]) is analysed, and probabilities of true paternity can be established with near certainty. However, in some applications more distant relationships are of interest: in forensic casework 'familial searching' exploits the fact that a perpetrator and their relatives are expected to share 'similar' DNA profiles; in immigration cases a claim of relationship may need to be validated; in genealogical research participants may have hypotheses about their relationships which they wish to support. The kinship estimation problem is more difficult here because with each additional generation separating two individuals, the expected proportion of genome sharing halves. Additional power can be gained by adding more markers, e.g. by using genome-wide SNP chips.
The project will explore the potential of next-generation sequencing forensic multiplexes and genome-wide SNP/sequence data in relationship estimation. Forensically relevant data will be generated by typing multiplexes on existing pedigree DNA resources. Anonymised genome-wide SNP data will be obtained from collaborators and industrial partner DNA WorldWide. All these data will include uniparentally-inherited markers (Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA) as well as biparentally-inherited (autosomal) markers, and markers on the X chromosome.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 31/03/2024
1940004 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 02/10/2017 30/09/2021 Margherita Colucci
Description Short-Term ISFG fellowship
Amount € 1,000 (EUR)
Organisation International Society for Forensic Genetics 
Sector Learned Society
Country Germany
Start 02/2020 
End 03/2020
Description Training Grant
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Genetics Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 07/2018
Description Project collaboration - Prof. Thore Egeland' s research group (NMBU) 
Organisation Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
Country Norway 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Experience in the use of genotyping techniques, exploring applications in relationship estimation in forensic settings.
Collaborator Contribution Statistical knowledge in relationship inference, extensive experience in software and tools coding, and in the use of simulations.
Impact -evaluation of new techniques -proposing publication
Start Year 2020
Description iCASE partnership with DNA Worldwide/ Living DNA 
Organisation Living DNA Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Information gathering, supporting and trouble-shooting analysis process, understanding clients' support.
Collaborator Contribution Training in the bioinformatic methods. Experience in business-related applications and consumers support.
Impact - understanding which aspects of genetic relatedness inference are poorly communicated to the general public and the precise sources of confusion - personal skills development: essential business skills involving public presentation, listening and communication, organisation, understanding of project management, marketing and finances - kinship estimation (bioinformatic) workflow
Start Year 2017
Description College Poster Fair 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This Poster competition was open to the general public in order strengthen the link between university and community and open dialogue to various research topics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019