Reconstructing full and partial STR profiles from severely burned human remains using comparative ancient and forensic DNA extraction techniques

M. V. Emery, K. Bolhofner, S. Winingear, R. Oldt, M. Montes, S. Kanthaswamy, J. E. Buikstra, L. C. Fulginiti, A. C. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Thermal degeneration of the DNA molecule presents a special challenge to medico-legal investigations since low DNA yields, fragmented DNA molecules, and damaged nucleotide bases hinder accurate STR genotyping. As a consequence, fragments of severely burned human remains are often not amenable to standard DNA recovery. However, current ancient DNA (aDNA) extraction methods have proven highly effective at obtaining ultrashort DNA fragments (∼50 bp) from degraded palaeontological and archaeological specimens. In this study, we compare DNA yields and STR results obtained from two established aDNA and forensic DNA extraction protocols by sampling multiple skeletal elements recovered from victims (n = 23) involved in fire-related incidents. DNA yields and STR results suggest an inverse correlation between DNA yield and STR quality and increasing temperature. Despite the rapid thermal destruction of DNA at high temperatures, we generated higher quality full and partial STR profiles using the aDNA extraction protocol across all burn categories than the forensic total bone demineralization extraction method. Our analysis suggests adopting aDNA extraction methods as an alternative to current forensic practices to improve DNA yields from challenging human remains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102272
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Volume46
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020

Keywords

  • Ancient DNA
  • Burnt human remains
  • Cremains
  • Forensic DNA
  • Quantitative PCR
  • STR genotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics

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