Massively parallel sequencing (MPS) technologies, also referred to as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), has just got a lot closer to implementation in crime labs.
A Battelle study for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) demonstrates that the technology provides the accuracy, reproducibility and sensitivity needed to support forensic investigations.
However, traditional capillary electrophoresis (CE) used in most crime labs has significant limitations, especially when it comes to analyzing unknown, degraded or mixed samples.
MPS is a newer sequencing technology that can vastly increase the speed, processing power and resolution of DNA sequencing compared to CE.
However, before it can be used as evidence for forensic investigations, the technology must be validated for use in criminal forensic laboratories.
The Battelle-led NIJ study was initiated in 2015 to evaluate the use of MPS technologies in eight forensic laboratories across the country.
Forensic Partner Laboratories:
- Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
- California Department of Justice
- Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences
- National Institute of Standards and Technology
- North Carolina State University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Philadelphia Police Department Office of Forensic Science
(Battelle offers a turnkey implementation solution to get you up and running with massively parallel sequencing, from start to finish. Courtesy of Battelle and YouTube)
In Phase I (Performance Testing), Battelle researchers evaluated commercially available MPS products and developed standard operating procedures and workflows to be used across all of the participating laboratories.
In Phase II (Inter-Laboratory Testing), standardized samples provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were sent to each of the participating laboratories for analysis.
A comprehensive review of the Phase II results showed that MPS produces data that is “robust, reliable, reproducible and sensitive.”
Laboratories performing the same workflows and using the same instruments and software produced results that were concordant with each other.
In addition, the genotypes obtained through MPS were consistent with data obtained through CE typing.
The results indicate that the MPS technologies and workflows studied produce results that are accurate and reliable for criminal forensic investigations.
According to Rich Guerrieri and Mark Wilson, Research Leaders within Battelle’s Applied Genomics business line, MPS could greatly expand the scope of applications for forensic genomic analysis.
“This expanded resolution, along with advances in our ability to read and understand genomic information, allows MPS to provide meaningful information from unknown samples even when they do not produce a match in a forensic database, they said.
(Learn More, as expert forensic scientist Rich Guerreri shares a personal journey through the history of DNA in America and the promise new DNA technology holds for identifying missing persons and exonerating wrongly incarcerated individuals. Courtesy of TEDx Talks and YouTube)
“It also makes MPS more useful for analysis of highly degraded or mixed samples that often fail to produce results using CE.”
“Battelle is continuing work to optimize MPS methods for forensic investigation and assist forensic DNA laboratories in incorporating the new technology.”