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J Appl Genet. 2012 Feb;53(1):41-60. doi: 10.1007/s13353-011-0068-7. Epub 2011 Oct 15.

Current genetic methodologies in the identification of disaster victims and in forensic analysis.

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  • 1Institute of Human Genetics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poznań, Poland. zietkiee@man.poznan.pl

Abstract

This review presents the basic problems and currently available molecular techniques used for genetic profiling in disaster victim identification (DVI). The environmental conditions of a mass disaster often result in severe fragmentation, decomposition and intermixing of the remains of victims. In such cases, traditional identification based on the anthropological and physical characteristics of the victims is frequently inconclusive. This is the reason why DNA profiling became the gold standard for victim identification in mass-casualty incidents (MCIs) or any forensic cases where human remains are highly fragmented and/or degraded beyond recognition. The review provides general information about the sources of genetic material for DNA profiling, the genetic markers routinely used during genetic profiling (STR markers, mtDNA and single-nucleotide polymorphisms [SNP]) and the basic statistical approaches used in DNA-based disaster victim identification. Automated technological platforms that allow the simultaneous analysis of a multitude of genetic markers used in genetic identification (oligonucleotide microarray techniques and next-generation sequencing) are also presented. Forensic and population databases containing information on human variability, routinely used for statistical analyses, are discussed. The final part of this review is focused on recent developments, which offer particularly promising tools for forensic applications (mRNA analysis, transcriptome variation in individuals/populations and genetic profiling of specific cells separated from mixtures).

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