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: Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, a pipet and a polymer

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

Cultivation of microalgae via an innovative technology

Feb 27, 2015

Preliminary laboratory scale studies have shown consistent biomass production and weekly a thick microalgal biofilm could be harvested. A new and innovative harvesting device has been developed for ALGADISK able to directly ...

Refined method to convert lignin to nylon precursor

Feb 27, 2015

A new study from the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrates the conversion of lignin-derived compounds to adipic acid, an important industrial dicarboxylic acid produced for its use as ...

Living in the genetic comfort zone

Feb 26, 2015

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...

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.