WEDNESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- DNA can be used to determine the hair color of an unknown criminal who is being sought by police, Dutch researchers report.

They found that DNA is about 90 percent accurate in determining whether a person has red hair or black hair, and about 80 percent accurate for blond or brown hair. The necessary DNA can be taken from blood, sperm, saliva or other biological evidence collected by forensics experts.

The study appears in the current issue of Human Genetics.

"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," study leader Professor Manfred Kayser, chairman of the forensic molecular biology department at Erasmus Medical College in Rotterdam, said in a journal news release.

"For our research, we made use of the DNA and hair color information of hundreds of Europeans and investigated genes previously known to influence the differences in hair color. We identified 13 DNA markers from 11 genes that are informative to predict a person's hair color," he said.

This breakthrough could soon lead to a validated DNA test for hair color, said Ate Kloosterman, of the Netherlands Forensic Institute.

"This new development results in an important expansion of the future DNA toolkit used by forensic investigators to track down unknown offenders," he said in the same news release.

More information

The Tech Museum of Innovation has more about hair color.