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Forensic Imaging-Guided Recovery of Nuclear DNA from the Spinal Cord

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Our objective is to document the recovery of DNA from the spinal cord or surrounding dura mater in 11 cases of severely burned human remains. Radiographs established that portions of charred tissue contained spine segments. Multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) revealed that each spine specimen contained an intact spinal cord remnant. A full DNA profile was obtained from seven specimens using spinal cord dura mater in six specimens and spinal cord medulla in one specimen. A partial profile was obtained from four specimens (spinal cord dura mater, 2; spinal cord medulla, 2). Bone and muscle surrounding the spinal cord appear to insulate nucleic acid containing tissue from critical thermal degradation. The spinal cord, which is easily identified by MDCT examination of remains and easily recovered at the postmortem examination, can be a source of DNA with extraction yields comparable with other tissue sources. Specimens of dura mater are preferable as processing time is faster than bone.

Keywords: burns; computed tomography; forensic imaging; forensic pathology; forensic science; nuclear DNA; spinal cord; virtual autopsy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, c/o Editorial Services, PO Box 269, Wilmington, DE 19899, USA. 2: Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, 1413 Research Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20850, USA. 3: Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, 1413 Research Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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