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Streamlining the DNA Process through Implementation of Automation and Information Technologies

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2011
269 pages
The goal of the research was to reduce turnaround time for cases, to improve efficiency through the implementation of automation and information technology systems, and to provide an optimized processing model for small DNA casework laboratories at the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner Forensic Laboratory (ACOME FL).
The areas of the workflow/analysis process which required increased efficiency included: 1) manual microscopic examinations for the presence of spermatozoa, and 2) manual sample manipulation in DNA processing, data transfer, and profile interpretation. Automated instrumentation was implemented for the microscopic examinations performed on samples. The instrumentation allows the analyst to be removed from time consumptive and tedious microscopic examinations and was found to be more accurate. A Y]STR DNA typing system was validated for use as a screening tool in the process. The intent in utilizing Y]STRs as a screen was to reduce the backlog of cases intended for labor intensive serological examination by bypassing the initial characterization of stains via traditional methods, and instead subject the sample to automated DNA analysis for Y]STRs. The identification of samples suitable for Y]STR processing, rather than traditional megaplexing, can occur at multiple points in the process. This alleviates steps in the processing scheme. Automated instrumentation was implemented for the processing of non]Touch samples through the DNA scheme. Here robots remove the analyst from the procedure, allowing them to focus on more intuitive aspects of the forensic process, increasing efficiency and reducing potential contamination. The efficiency of the transfer and analysis of data was improved through the use of information technology resources, a network of instrument and data analysis computers and a dedicated DNA Laboratory Information Management System for the purpose of information and sample tracking through analysis in the DNA section. A genetic calculator, a tool which provides genotypes, match strengths, and mixture weights to aid in profile interpretation, was purchased for the profile analysis of samples processed through DNA.

Date Published: June 1, 2011