Forensic analysts using ExactID®, a kit and sequencer-independent NGS software for forensic DNA analysis developed by Battelle, now have a new suite of analytical tools available to them. ExactID Version 2.0, released October 1st, now supports mitochondrial DNA analysis, microHap analysis, and other advanced genomic methods that allow researchers to pull more information out of challenging DNA samples.
“We’re excited to make these new analytical methods available to our customers. In the real world, DNA evidence is not always pristine and easy to analyze. Adding these capabilities will allow forensic researchers to expand the range of DNA evidence that is usable in an investigation and get more information out of the samples they have available,” says Dr. Michael Dickens, Vice President and Business Manager for the Battelle Applied Genomics team.
ExactID is the first commercial forensic genomics software system that lets forensic investigators harvest the power of next-generation sequencing data from a variety of sequencers and in a format suited for routine laboratory analysis. The first version of ExactID analyzed STR (short tandem repeat) markers for database matching and also SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) data to provide predictions of physical appearance, ancestry and familial relationships among people. This allows forensic analysts to extract valuable information from DNA samples even when they don’t return any matches from existing databases.
Version 2.0 adds new DNA analysis options that provide even greater utility for forensic investigators. Mitochondrial DNA analysis provides important information about female line lineage for unknown samples. It can be used to identify relatives in missing persons cases or to include or exclude a potential suspect. Because each cell contains hundreds of mitochondria and only a single nucleus, mitochondrial analysis can yield results when there is not enough nuclear DNA for traditional STR or SNP analysis. This makes it a useful technique for degraded DNA samples or very limited DNA samples, such as a single hair follicle.
ExactID 2.0 also incorporates MicroHap marker analysis, another powerful genomic technique for finding potential matches or ancestry predictions from degraded samples. The new MicroHap class of markers provides more accurate results than is possible with SNP markers in mixed DNA samples. This will help investigators examining real-world evidence in sexual assault cases and other situations where multiple peoples’ DNA is mixed in a single sample.
The new version also includes an updated user interface and display. Battelle plans to continue to expand capabilities for ExactID as forensic genomics develops. “We will continuously improve the product as new techniques become available. With the speed that the technology is changing, we anticipate we will need to make regular updates and enhancements to the software,” says Dickens. ExactID is distributed by NicheVision, Inc.
and available to forensic labs worldwide. Beyond forensics, the technology has applications for medical assays, environmental research and food safety.