Ohio Crime Lab Using Battelle DNA Technology to Solve Cold Cases

August 8, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
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The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is investing in cutting-edge DNA testing capabilities to bolster its arsenal to solve missing persons forensic cases, among other tasks. The bureau is working with Battelle, an independent nonprofit research and development organization, and the organization’s technology that provides investigators with new tools for more in-depth DNA profiling.

The next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology creates a sketch of a suspect or missing person that includes detailed information such as gender, hair color, eye color, ethnicity and origin derived from DNA samples that otherwise might not produce a match in DNA databases.  

Battelle spent five years implementing the groundbreaking technology in collaboration with the U.S. Defense Department, which led to Battelle’s selection to lead a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) project evaluating NGS methods in forensic labs across the country. The technology also has piqued the interest of U.S. Army criminal investigators.

The NGS is a significant improvement over sequencing technologies such as capillary electrophoresis, or CE, which usually produces a DNA profile of 20 to 25 identifying markers in one run. The NGS can distinguish upward of 230 markers. The new technology takes apart each DNA molecule and provides a precise sequence for each one, resulting in much greater fidelity of information. “It allows forensic analysts to start looking at a number of other markers that traditionally have not been available to forensic typing,” says Mark Wilson, an experienced genomics researcher and a master technician who leads research and development for Battelle’s NGS technologies.

The improved level of detail gives investigators the ability to discern hair and eye color, but also a person’s facial structure, ethnic and racial background and even ancestry.  

BCI and Battelle forensic scientists now are working together in the BCI lab in London, Ohio, to validate and implement the NGS technology in efforts to solve missing persons forensic cases in addition to sexual assault and murder cases. Additionally, it will be able to feed the information into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a nationwide DNA database of millions of genetic profiles. 

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