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Assessment of Rapid, Robust, and Efficient Postmortem DNA Sampling Method for DVI and Missing Persons Identification

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2017
13 pages

This the Final Summary Overview of the findings, methodology, and implications for criminal justice policy and practice of a research project that evaluated an easily deployable, efficient, and inexpensive method for collecting postmortem DNA samples.


A primary objective of this study was to assess the effectiveness of DNA typing of postmortem samples collected on commercially available, chemically treated DNA preservation cards ("FTA" cards). The study was designed to benefit both persons in the field in collecting samples and the labs that process the samples. The properties of FTA cards make them suitable for collecting samples from both recently deceased individuals and decomposed bodies. They are an effective alternative to other extraction methods from tissue or boxes. FTA cards are also widely used in forensic labs and are ideal for easy shipping due to their small volume and stability at room temperature. The study evaluated the method's effectiveness over time (postmortem interval), its success rate in various environmental conditions, and whether results correlate with body decomposition. Project subjects consisted of donated human cadavers from the University of Tennessee, Forensic Anthropology Center Body Donation Program. Individuals were selected based on having a time of death within 48 hours of receiving the body. The study determined that the tested procedure proved to be a simple, cost-effective, and efficient method for collecting and preserving a large number of postmortem DNA samples for human identification. The proposed method does not require preservation methods such as refrigeration, freezing, dry ice, or chemical input to prevent further genetic degradation. The established stability of DNA immobilized on FTA cards obviates the need for shipping at cold temperatures.

Date Published: February 1, 2017