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Increasing the Predictability and Success Rate of Skeletal Evidence Typing: Using Physical Characteristics of Bone as a Metric for DNA Quality and Quantity

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2006
104 pages

Donated skeletal specimens of some 20 individuals who had been buried in a small church cemetery between 1833 and 1861 were examined to determine the relationship between bone weathering and bone DNA degradation.


The study found little relationship between the outward appearance of a bone and its DNA quantity or quality. The bone type, however, was a significant factor in the quality of the findings from DNA analysis. Long bones contained more DNA for analysis than other bones, and they were more likely to produce usable DNA results than ribs. Ribs, in turn, were more likely to produce usable DNA results than flat bones. The amount of DNA recovered was not significant in DNA amplification. Neither sex nor age were related to the success of DNA typing. An associated research project found that soil pH influenced bone preservation. Findings related to the DNA analysis included the determination that PCR inhibition significantly influenced quantitative PCR results; this was somewhat remedied by the addition of BSA. Amplification that used primers moved in toward the target sequence (Mini-STR's) made little difference in the ability to amplify nuclear DNA, but the use of nested PCR did weaken amplification. Whole genome amplification was of little use with the aged skeletal material. Quantitative PCR was used to measure the amount of mitochondrial DNA in each bone. 30 figures, 8 tables, and a 114-item bibliography

Date Published: February 1, 2006