[hackerspaces] DNA Spray in Amsterdam?

B F bakmthiscl at gmail.com
Mon Feb 14 14:05:33 CET 2011

This is one of those things that we should be watching carefully but
not panicking about.

The previous implementation of this idea was to use a nontoxic,
invisible, fluorescent chemical, namely one of the fluoresceins, to
mark money as bank robbers take off with it.  Then the police can use
UV to trace the money.  Good idea, but any UV light renders it

The  idea of using synthetic DNA is that individual labels can be
created for each site and can be used in tiny amounts.  Any amount
left over can be detected after replication.  It's as if you had a
colored agent that you could make more intense on command.  The DNA in
question would be totally synthetic and its amino acid sequence would
be known and registered by the manufacturer.  Zillions of different
sequences could be marketed and used.  DNA is not toxic -- we eat it
all the time.

Some DNA can be infectious, but the chances of an accidental
production of infectious synthetic DNA are so low as to be ridiculous.
 Viral DNA comes with a protein coat to help it enter the cells, and
without this assistance could never infect cells.  In turn, the viral
DNA must contain the genes to synthesize the protein coat.  (I may
have details wrong here, as I studied biochemistry very many years
ago, but the gist is correct.)  So the accidental synthetic production
of infectious DNA would entail a coincidence so incredibly small that
only Hollywood could embrace it.

One thing I very much like about this idea is that it requires DNA
analysis of crime scene evidence.  On of the great mistakes in the US,
at least, has been NOT to require DNA analysis of ALL appropriate
crime scenes -- any time hair, tissue, or body fluids are left at a
crime scene -- since that technology became available.  As has
recently come out, had this been done, many innocent people would
never have been convicted.

On Sat, Feb 12, 2011 at 1:13 PM, Russ Garrett <russ at garrett.co.uk> wrote:
> On 12 February 2011 16:44, Ross Smith <rsmith at i3detroit.com> wrote:
>> Have you heard about this?  Seen these signs?
>> http://www.jantinewijnja.nl/2011/02/11/dna-spray-installed-in-my-neigborhood-amsterdam-west/
> That letter isn't clear on how it's being used. Is it actually being
> installed in the streets? How does that even work?
> There is a similar product in the UK called SmartWater which has been
> in use for 10+ years. It's used in two situations - property marking
> and as a spray which is released from a burglar alarm/tamper system.
> It's been proven to be quite a successful deterrent:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SmartWater
> --
> Russ Garrett
> russ at garrett.co.uk
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