HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University Forensic Science graduate students and DNA analysts saw first-hand their DNA profiles being generated in under 90 minutes using rapid DNA analysis, an emerging biometrics technology that may revolutionize how certain crimes are solved.
Dr. Terry W. Fenger, director of the Marshall University Forensic Science Center, said the demonstration of the biometric technology was an unusual opportunity. “Rapid DNA analysis technology drastically reduces DNA analysis time, and we got to see a glimpse into the future of serving justice,” he said.
Representatives from GE Healthcare Life Sciences demonstrated the DNAscan™ Rapid DNA Analysis™ System in the Marshall University Forensic Science Center DNA training laboratory last week. The instrument is a fully automated rapid STR (short tandem repeat) system with integrated data analysis and Expert System software for forensic testing and research.
West Virginia State Police Crime Laboratory representatives and officers from the Huntington Police Department also were on hand to see the state-of-the-art system in action and learn how the technology may affect crime investigations in the future.
GE Healthcare Life Sciences representative Len Goren said the equipment’s applications may benefit law enforcement, forensic crime laboratories, military and intelligence agencies, and border control efforts. In the future, it may aid with the identification of victims of mass disasters and also aid in tracing people during missing persons investigations, he added.
The automated system processes samples on a fully integrated “lab-on-a-chip,” a disposable cartridge that performs all stages of DNA analysis. Goren said the system provides a called STR profile from five individual single-source DNA swabs in less than 85 minutes.
Fenger said the demonstration provided important information for the DNA analysts working forensic cases as well as faculty and students in the academic program.
“Rapid DNA analysis is a hot topic in the field of forensic science, and it is critical that our staff be apprised of scientific developments and technologies in the area of DNA analysis,” he said. “Our students also benefitted from the demonstration because they got to see firsthand how the future of solving crimes may be evolving, and our instructors can integrate the most current scientific information into our curriculum.”
According to the FBI’s website, rapid DNA describes the fully automated (hands-free) process of developing a CODIS Core STR profile from a reference sample buccal swab. The “swab in – profile out” process consists of automated extraction, amplification, separation, detection and allele calling without human intervention.
Photos: ( Photo 1) The photo illustrates how law enforcement agencies would use the GE Healthcare Life Sciences DNAscan™ Rapid DNA Analysis™ System to process DNA profiles at the time suspects are processed in police agency booking stations.
(Photo 2) The BioChipSet Cassette, a disposable cartridge that performs all stages of DNA analysis, is inserted into the DNAscan™ Rapid DNA Analysis™ System. Photos courtesy of GE Healthcare Life Sciences.