October 19, 2022 — A research team from Pace University, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCME)* today presented findings demonstrating use of forensicGEM® Universal to extract DNA from highly degraded samples from the World Trade Center attacks. These findings were presented in the Forensic Biology/DNA section at the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) 2022 Annual Meeting in Niagara Falls, NY.

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, OCME has worked to identify nearly 20,000 human remains. The remains yet to be identified are widely recognized as some of the most challenging since most of the DNA has been degraded due to exposure to fire, heat, jet fuel, natural elements, and aging.

Using forensicGEM, the researchers were able to extract DNA from World Trade Center samples that had previously yielded no detectable DNA using conventional extraction procedures.

The typical industry standard for forensic DNA extraction uses Proteinase K, requiring multiple ionic washes, long incubation times, and large amounts of starting materials. The forensicGEM approach offers significant advantages. Using a novel cocktail of thermophilic enzymes rather than detergents and reducing agents, forensicGEM provides DNA extraction with no purification steps, making it possible to quickly extract DNA from very small volumes. Reduced handling protects the integrity of the sample.

The researchers first compared forensicGEM’s incubation times, enzyme amount, bone preparation method, and post-extraction purification to organic extraction using non-World Trade Center bone samples. The forensicGEM protocol detected DNA in 80% of the bone samples where DNA had not previously been detected. forensicGEM was then applied to five actual samples from the World Trade Center attacks from which no detectable DNA had been previously extracted, extracting DNA from three of those five samples and yielding a 22-locus and a 15-locus profile on two of these highly degraded samples. The success with bone profiling was notable given there was much less sample input for forensicGEM (10 mg) compared to a standard organic extraction (2 g).

The research team indicated their future research will investigate bone scraping versus the standard method of milling since this study achieved higher DNA quantities and better profiles using the scraping method.

“This research offers a new step forward to advance the science around DNA extraction from bone samples, allowing identifications to be made that were not previously possible,” said Jillian Conte, PhD, a forensics expert and application scientist at MicroGEM. “We are pleased to work collaboratively with research groups tackling these difficult sample types to leverage our unique thermophilic extraction capabilities.”

MicroGEM uses a similar approach to nucleic acid extraction in its recently launched Sal6830 COVID-19 diagnostic, the world’s first saliva-based PCR test to detect SARS-CoV-2 at the point of care, which returns results in under 30 minutes.

MicroGEM's forensic products, including forensicGEM Universal and forensicGEM Sperm, are ideal for DNA extraction from precious, limited forensic samples such as blood, tissue, bone, saliva, and sperm.

Please contact Jillian Conte at w.pbagr@zvpebtrzovb.pbz for forensic inquiries.

*The New York City Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCME) does not endorse products or technologies related to such research studies.