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DNA recovery from gelatin fingerprint lifters by direct proteolytic digestion

Zieger, Martin, Schneider, Christoph, Utz, Silvia
Forensic science international 2019 v.295 pp. 145-149
DNA, DNA fingerprinting, forensic sciences, gelatin, magnetism, proteolysis, protocols, staining
Fingerprints are a valuable source for DNA profiling in forensic investigations. In practice, the fingerprints are routinely visualized first by powder staining and then often transferred to tapes or gelatin lifters for storage or examination. If at all, fingerprints are usually sampled for DNA in a second step. To target the DNA sampling in an optimal way, it is essential to know how much of the DNA in the sample remains in place and how much is transferred to the lifter. In the present study we addressed this question analyzing 16 pairs of thumb prints and revealed that more than 80% of the DNA from a fingerprint is transferred to the gelatin lifter. Therefore, subsequent DNA sampling of the stored gelatin lifters appears more promising than recovery of the residual DNA from the original fingerprint. Furthermore, as a proof of principle, we developed a protocol for the direct extraction of DNA from gelatin fingerprint lifters by proteolytic digestion of the gelatin matrix followed by organic extraction. We show that DNA recovery from gelatin lifters by this direct extraction protocol is more efficient compared to swabbing the lifter followed by standard magnetic bead extraction of swabs. However, given the more elaborate protocol for direct extraction, we would still recommend the swab technique as the method of choice for forensic routine work.