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Biotechniques. 2002 Feb;32(2):366-8, 370, 372, passim.

Role of short tandem repeat DNA in forensic casework in the UK--past, present, and future perspectives.

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  • 1Forensic Science Service, Birmingham, UK.


The analysis of short tandem repeat (STR) DNA sequences is of fundamental importance to forensic science because they have become the recognized standard in constructing national public databases. Consequently, considerable effort has been expended in developing multiplexed (one tube) reactions that analyze several loci in combination. The implementation of STRs in casework cannot take place without a full understanding of the systems used. The purpose of validation is to characterize multiplexes when one is challenged with forensic samples. For example, mixtures are often encountered that may be particularly difficult to interpret against a background of allelic artifacts. By increasing the number of PCR amplification cycles, it is possible to dramatically boost the sensitivity of the system so that just a handful of cells may be successfully analyzed. However, interpretation is much more complex because the origin of DNA profiles may be less certain and complicated by issues such as contamination, the potential for innocent transfer and a predominance of mixtures. This review provides a brief historical background of the development of STRs in forensic casework that culminated in the creation of national DNA databases. The development of guidelines to interpret complex DNA profiles, such as mixtures, is outlined. Finally, the recent innovation of low copy number DNA profiling is explained along with the special considerations needed to report in court.

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