This seventh episode of the 2020 R&D Season of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Kimberly Sturk-Andreaggi, a research scientist at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, who discusses the development of entire mitogenome reference data using an automated high-throughput sequencing workflow.
Background information for the interview notes that disaster victim identification comes with a unique set of challenges. Poor-quality DNA, decades-old samples, and a lack of relative referential data can make the identification of victims from current and past conflicts difficult. This is the reason that the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory uses mitochondrial DNA as its primary testing method. In her interview, Ms. Sturk-Andreaggi discusses the utility of mitochondrial DNA as a method for developing entire mitogenome reference data. She describes the functions of her laboratory as a component of the Armed Force Medical Examiner agency, with a focus on identifying human remains. Mitochondrial DNA analysis is particularly useful in making identifications from bones and hair. She explains the benefits of using next-generation sequencing as an improvement in the cost-effectiveness of mitochondrial DNA processing. She also discusses her work under an NIJ grant that focuses on the development of a reference database of mitogenomes found in various subpopulations.