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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Forensic trace DNA: a review

Roland AH van Oorschot1*, Kaye N Ballantyne2 and R John Mitchell3

Author Affiliations

1 Forensic Services Department, Victoria Police, 31 Forensic Drive, Macleod 3085, Victoria, Australia

2 Department of Forensic Molecular Biology, Erasmus University Medical Center, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Genetics, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria 3086, Australia

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Investigative Genetics 2010, 1:14  doi:10.1186/2041-2223-1-14

Published: 1 December 2010


DNA analysis is frequently used to acquire information from biological material to aid enquiries associated with criminal offences, disaster victim identification and missing persons investigations. As the relevance and value of DNA profiling to forensic investigations has increased, so too has the desire to generate this information from smaller amounts of DNA. Trace DNA samples may be defined as any sample which falls below recommended thresholds at any stage of the analysis, from sample detection through to profile interpretation, and can not be defined by a precise picogram amount. Here we review aspects associated with the collection, DNA extraction, amplification, profiling and interpretation of trace DNA samples. Contamination and transfer issues are also briefly discussed within the context of trace DNA analysis. Whilst several methodological changes have facilitated profiling from trace samples in recent years it is also clear that many opportunities exist for further improvements.