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Development and validation of an applicator for use with adhesive tape for DNA recovery

Project Member(s): Meakin, G.

Funding or Partner Organisation: Commonwealth Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (National Security Science and Technology Unit Australian Government)
Defence Science and Technology Group of the Department of Defence
NSW Police Force

Start year: 2022

Summary: To expedite results, it is crucial for crime scene examiners to examine items in the field and collect sub-samples of these items in situ. These sub-samples are routinely in the form of a swab, a swatch or an adhesive tapelift, which can be directly placed into a “robot-ready tube”, compatible with automated DNA processing. Currently, swabs are widely used in Australian jurisdictions for DNA collection from many substrate types, but research has shown that the ability of swabs to collect DNA is impacted by a range of factors. Whilst the use of adhesive tapelifts can eliminate many of these impacting factors, tapelifts tend to only be routinely used for certain substrate types, specifically porous substrates such as clothing, even though they have been shown to be efficient in DNA collection from non-porous items too. In particular, recent research has shown that using adhesive tape to recover DNA can be as effective as swabbing, or even more effective, from both porous and non-porous substrates. However, due to the excessive handling required to apply the tapelift to a surface and then roll it carefully into a robot-ready tube, the tape is prone to contamination from the crime scene examiner, even though the examiner wears gloves. As such, we propose the development and testing of an applicator to be used with the tapelift that would eliminate the need of direct handling of the tapelift by the examiner, thereby minimising the risk of contamination. Use of the proposed applicator with the tapelift would therefore meet the need for an effective DNA collection device that minimises potential for DNA contamination, and that can be ejected into a robot-ready tube for room temperature storage between scene and laboratory and for automated DNA processing without further handling and sample preparation. Additionally, this device could be packaged with a robot-ready tube in a ready-to-go format, allowing for rapid use in field by non-expert users in military settings.

FOR Codes: Criminal justice, Forensic biology