Problem: Forensic labs in the US are faced with backlogs of samples waiting to be processed1. Since 2004, the US Department of Justice has spent more than $550M to improve crime labs’ workflows and infrastructure to help reduce the backlog1,2.
Delays in processing samples can interfere with the criminal justice system. In 2010, for instance, an estimated 14 percent of open homicide cases, 15 percent of open rape cases, and 23 percent of open property cases faced a delay3.
DNA identification is one rate-limiting step used to identify criminals. Sample processing is often delayed because isolating DNA genotypes requires specific expertise, can be a manual and difficult task, and may require complex and lengthy protocols depending on the sample type.
Solution: A sample lysis and DNA extraction automation system such as the Microlab AutoLys STAR workstation, recently launched by Hamilton Robotics, can help solve such issues.
This instrument platform improves forensic labs’ overall throughput by automating sample preparation, collecting clear lysate followed by DNA isolation, and replacing manual protocols at an affordable price. The workstation has been tested and performs well with blood, saliva, and other biological sample types.
The workstation includes the equipment needed for isolating DNA, including a 2D barcode reader, heater-shakers, robotic channels that manage sample processing, a swingout centrifuge, and consumables such as new AutoLys tubes. The proprietary AutoLys tubes can process up to 600 uL of sample DNA lysate. Customers who tested the Microlab AutoLys STAR system found the extracted DNA quality to be comparable to that of their in-house manual methods4.
Automating sample lysis also reduces manual errors, lowers contamination risk, improves chain-of-custody traceability, and enables labs to improve productivity by running assays overnight. A system like the Microlab AutoLys STAR workstation eliminates a rate-limiting step in identifying criminals and improves crime laboratory efficiency, making it a powerful new tool in the fight against crime.
For more information, visit http://www.hamiltonrobotics. com/hamilton-robotics/standard-solutions/autolys-star/
1. Mark Nelson, “Making Sense of DNA Backlogs—2010 Myths vs. Realities,” US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Special Report (2011).
2. “DNA Backlog Reduction Program Awards, last modified Sept. 21, 2012. National Institute of Justice. http://www.nij.gov/ nij/topics/forensics/lab-operations/evidence-backlogs/backlogreduction- awards.htm
3. “Untested Evidence: Not Just a Crime Lab Issue,” accessed online Nov. 16, 2012, http://www.nij.gov/nij/journals/266/untested.htm
4. “Fully Automated Sample Lysis Solution,” accessed online Nov. 16, 2012, http://www.evidencemagazine.com/index.php?option=com_ content&task=view&id=851&Itemid=9