Team studies DNA preservation in mass disasters

Sep 18, 2013

To help identify victims after mass disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, wars or acts of genocide, researchers at Sam Houston State University will investigate new techniques to preserve tissue samples and speed up the DNA identification process.

During natural and manmade disasters, forensic personnel often face adverse conditions, such as remote locations, intense heat, and the lack of electricity and resources. As a result, bodies may be left to decompose rapidly in the heat, creating a and also making genotyping more difficult as the DNA in those remains also is degrading.

"In these circumstances, forensic personnel may be faced with the task of identifying hundreds or even thousands of bodily remains in a very short period of time," said Sheree Hughes-Stamm of the Department of Forensic Science. "Through improvement in the collection and processing of tissue samples for DNA analysis, we can identify more victims and help bring closure to those who would otherwise never know what happened to friends and family."

The research is being funded through a National Institute of Justice grant to develop more cost effective, streamlined and efficient methods for the identification of victims of natural and mass disasters.

Hughes-Stamm will test several different solutions, both commercial preservatives and in-house mixes of readily available chemicals, such as various salts, solvents and alcohols. These preservatives are designed for use in the field to collect and preserve tissue samples from the deceased, and then be stored in hot and (without refrigeration) until they can be processed. The study will focus on maximizing the quantity and quality of DNA from the tissue into the surrounding solution so that this "free DNA" can be extracted directly from the preservatives for DNA-typing. This will greatly speed up the identification process.

The research will be conducted at SHSU's Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility (STAFS), a state-of-the-art, willed-body donor facility dedicated to scientific research and training. It is only one of six facilities in the country to use human body donations for the purpose of research. Tissue samples for this research will be obtained from cadavers at STAFS at various stages of decomposition.

The goals of this project are to develop improved DNA for , and to optimize more rapid processing methods for those samples in situations such as after mass disasters. Each compound will be evaluated on how well it preserves the DNA from human skin and muscle tissue when stored in harsh environmental conditions and how much good quality DNA can be retrieved directly from the surrounding preservative for more rapid genotyping.

Explore further: International team completes genome sequence of centipede

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Forensic breakthroughs win national recognition

Jun 21, 2013

Flinders-led research into techniques to isolate DNA in illicit drugs and to speed up the identification of disaster victims has been recognised in the National Institute of Forensic Science's (NIFS) annual awards. ...

NEC plans DNA analyzer for nearly-instant results

Nov 27, 2012

(Phys.org)—NEC is working on a DNA analyzer that is the size of a suitcase, portable enough to be taken to crime scenes. The NEC analyzer integrates all steps required in DNA analysis. By 2014, NEC intends ...

Recommended for you

Cataloguing 10 million human gut microbial genes

7 hours ago

Over the past several years, research on bacteria in the digestive tract (gut microbiome) has confirmed the major role they play in our health. An international consortium, in which INRA participates, has developed the most ...

New device could make large biological circuits practical

Nov 24, 2014

Researchers have made great progress in recent years in the design and creation of biological circuits—systems that, like electronic circuits, can take a number of different inputs and deliver a particular ...

Model evaluates where bioenergy crops grow best

Nov 24, 2014

Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.