Forensic DNA Laboratories

Processing Laboratory

DNA icon

The Evidence Locker Room houses all criminal evidence samples under secure conditions; only Evidence Custodians have access to the Evidence Locker Room. Samples are stored and may be sent to requesting authorities if a case goes to trial. Forensic evidentiary and database samples that are not required to be processed under a Biosafety hood are inventoried, evaluated and sampled for DNA testing in this laboratory. Any serological testing is performed in the Processing Laboratory, which contains a microscope for sperm searches. The Processing Laboratory also contains an automated blood stain card puncher with associated bar code reader for high throughput database sample processing.

Preparation Laboratory

Evidentiary samples such as bone, liquid blood and tissue that require the use of a Biosafety Cabinet are processed in the Preparation Laboratory. Extraction procedures and preparation for quantitation and amplification procedures are performed in the Preparation Laboratory either manually or with automated robotic instruments. Sample extracts are securely stored here until notification from the submitting agency for return or destruction, for example the West Virginia State Police may request the return of a CODIS sample.

Analysts in Preperation Laboratory

PCR Laboratory

This laboratory has been specifically designed for DNA analysis using PCR amplification. Due to the fact that millions of copies of DNA are generated from an initial sample, contamination is always a concern. Our PCR Laboratory has negative air pressure, which means none of the air can escape into the hallway and contamination is prevented.

Analysts in PCR Laboratory

The Real Time PCR Quantitation Instrument is located in the PCR Laboratory; quantitation is the process of measuring the amount of human DNA isolated from evidence. The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) generates millions of exact copies of a minute DNA sample through a process known as Amplification. Amplification is performed in a piece of equipment called a Thermal Cycler.

Once a DNA sample has been amplified, it is ready to be analyzed on a Genetic Analyzer. The Genetic Analyzer is a highly-specialized, automated instrument that analyzes DNA through Electrophoresis. Electrophoresis is a process where fluorescently-labeled DNA travels through a medium and is separated according to its size. The Genetic Analyzer detects these fluorescent DNA molecules with a laser and CCD camera, generating representative data in the form of colored peaks on a graph.

Once the run is complete, the data generated by the instrument must be analyzed using special computer software. This is done across the hall by highly skilled DNA analysts.

Analyst Workroom

DNA analysis is done using computer software that generates a final DNA profile used to identify the individual who is the source of the sample. A DNA profile consists of separate pieces of information that come from different areas on a person’s DNA. Due to the high number of “markers” that are analyzed, the profile generated is considered to be “unique for that individual”.

Once an evidentiary DNA profile is complete it may be compared to reference profiles for the purpose of exclusion or matching. The only time 2 different DNA profiles should match is if the individuals are identical twins. If the evidentiary and reference profiles match, a statistic is calculated to provide an estimate of the significance of the match. This calculation estimates the frequency of the DNA profile in the U.S. population.

The data generated at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center is returned to the submitting agency with case report documentation.

ANAB Accredited DNA Laboratory

MUFSC is accredited by ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB), which is the longest established provider of ISO accreditation to forensic science testing laboratories in the United States. Our laboratory is an ISO/IEC 17025 compliant testing laboratory.

ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board logo

In addition, our Forensic DNA Laboratory provides databasing services to the forensic science community. Our laboratory is accredited by ANAB, which recognizes our compliance with federally mandated Quality Assurance Standards for the analysis of DNA-STR by capillary electrophoresis for database samples.