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Gaining Forensic Insight with NGS

Gustav Karlberg
| Oct 25, 2012

tiger sharkThe ISHI exhibition was really bustling with activity as exhibitors were displaying new products and methods for forensic scientists from around the world. While much of the work is still being done using CE sequencing looking at short tandem repeats (STRs), there is a great anticipation and excitement to what next-generation sequencing (NGS) can offer in this space. The thought of investigating STRs, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the same run is really a game-changing approach for these scientists. 

At the Illumina exhibit booth, we were very busy explaining how this can be done and how the concept of NGS works. With presentations in the main hall, explaining how sequencing using Illumina’s HiSeq and MiSeq instruments has provided more insight to cases and enabled identification of missing people, the interest in learning more seemed endless. It is truly time for the forensic market to change, and Illumina is doing our part in leading this change together with key opinion leaders in the field.

Attending a forensics meeting also gives me insight to a quite different world of applied science. Dr. Reynolds presented a case of human remains found in the gut of a Tiger shark off the coast of the Bahamas. This was a grisly but interesting story where the remains could be identified as a missing person from a boat incident earlier.

Another session included the John Wayne Gacy case, a man who sexually assaulted and murdered young men from Chicago back in the seventies. When the police finally caught him, he had committed at least 33 murders, and 26 of his victims were buried under his house. The efforts to identify all his victims have been on going for a long time and some missing people from that time are suspected to be victims of Gacy. The potential to help shed light on such dramatic and personal events is a real motivator to keep pushing for advances in technology.