DNA Testing for Paternity, Maternity, Sibling and Immigration

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Secret DNA Testing, Using Non-Standard Samples & Forensic DNA Testing

When You Can’t Use A Cheek Swab For DNA Testing

With conventional DNA testing it is customary to collect a voluntary or court ordered buccal cells from cheek swab samples from an alleged father or other individuals for DNA testing. In certain circumstances it may be either difficult to confront an individual and request a DNA test or they might be deceased or otherwise unavailable to give a DNA sample. In these situations, items other than a cheek swab, known as a non-standard sample, or forensic “evidence”, can often be useful in answering relationship questions. We will explain your options below.

Notarized, Legally Binding DNA Test Results OR
Non-Notarized, Private DNA Test Results
Some results, such as a blood sample from a Medical Examiner or Coroner’s Office, can be legally-binding or court admissible. If the samples are collected by yourself and without a third party using a chain of custody, the results will most likely not be court admissible since they will not be notarized by the lab. All court admissible items must either be from an specific organization and be accompanied by a chain or custody or collected by an authorized third party investigator, such as a police officer at the scene of a crime. Any sample in the custody of an interested person has broken the chain of custody and therefore cannot be given as a notarized result from the lab. Therefore, if you collect a toothbrush and use it for a paternity test, it will a private, for your knowledge only test.

Sources Of DNA Evidence/Non-Standard Samples
Your full DNA makeup is in virtually every cell in the human body and is constantly shed from a variety of sources, including skin cells and hair with root. Valuable DNA can be found on evidence that is decades old, however, several factors can affect DNA stability such as: sunlight, moisture, bacteria, and mold. Consequently, not all DNA evidence will result in a viable DNA profile. Common sources of forensic or non-standard sample DNA evidence include:

Blood Sample
Hairs with Root
Used cigarettes
Diabetic glucose sticks
Ear Wax
Blanket, pillow, bed sheet
Bottle, can or glass
Post mortem tissue
Stamp/envelope (lickable)
Band Aid
Dirty Laundry
Electric Razor
Eating Utensils
Drinking Straw

Some of the above samples work better and are easier to obtain DNA from then others. For instance, fingernails are easier to obtain DNA from than bedsheets. If you have other samples that you think might work, such as ear wax/q-tip used clean ears or dirty tissues, please contact us for more information about how to submit these items and what the success rate is for them.

About Success Rates For DNA Extraction From Non-Standard Samples
It is possible to fail to obtain sufficient DNA from a buccal swab, for reasons such as: the swabbing was not adequately performed, the swabs grow mold due to damp storage conditions, bacteria destroys a damp sample or a person just does not give off much DNA during the swabbing process. However, those cases are rare and problems with this type of sample are normally less than 2%.

Non standard samples, however, can pose a greater problem when exacting DNA to perform a profile, and therefore, the lab cannot guarantee that a DNA profile will be obtained from any sample submitted. Depending on the nature of the sample, there is usually associated a High, Medium or Low probability of success in extracting DNA from each type of sample (in some cases a percentage probability of success is provided).

High (80%): Samples such as fresh blood stains or finger nail or toe nail clippings, for a qualified and experienced DNA laboratory, extracting DNA is considered relatively straightforward. In such cases, as long as the sample is handled properly both during collection and delivery to the laboratory, one can expect a high probability of success in extracting DNA.

Medium (50%-60%): Samples such as a toothbrush or cigarette butts – the success rate is influenced by a
number of variables including heavy use vs light use and/or storage conditions etc. Therefore a heavily smoked cigarette butt found in an ashtray at home is more likely to result in a successful DNA extraction than a lightly smoked cigarette that has been thrown on the street and exposed to the elements, such as terrain, wind and moisture or rain.

Low (20% – 30%): Samples such as bed sheets or eating utensils, where extracting DNA is a relatively difficult and time consuming process, these normally need to be handled by a highly specialized laboratory, such as ours. In these cases, the individual should consult the laboratory first to check their level of expertise, if they will accept the sample and what the estimated cost would be. The classification above is however only a guideline, since as we have seen it is not just the type of sample that is important but also other variables can have an influence on the viability of the item.

Variables and Elements That Can Cause a Sample to Be Inhibited or Fail Are:
1. Poor storage conditions (e.g. damp environment, extreme heat, etc.).
2. Poor sample handling (possible contamination with other DNA or dirt by touching the sample).
3. Not enough DNA present (e.g. heavily used toothbrush vs used once only).
4. Age of the sample. DNA will degrade over time.

Success Rates
It is also important to note that the success rate will also depend heavily on the ability of the laboratory performing the test. Not all laboratories that can perform DNA Paternity testing on normal swabs are capable of obtaining DNA from a wide variety of non-standard sample. The more difficult the sample (e.g. teeth and bone), the greater the specialization and experience required to increase the chance of a successful DNA extraction.

Laboratory Standards
It is important to make sure that that lab that is performing the work is accredited to do so. Finally, it is also important to note that with non-standard samples there is always a risk that the extraction will not work. Therefore any person considering submitting such a sample, especially where it may be only a limited sample available (e.g. person is deceased), should take this into consideration. Selection of an experienced laboratory (possibly of forensic specialization) will help minimize this risk by educating you on the best sample to submit so that you do not waste both time and money.

Evidence Collection And Contamination Prevention
Because extremely small samples of DNA can be used as evidence, greater attention to contamination issues is necessary when identifying, collecting, and preserving DNA evidence. To avoid contamination of evidence that may contain DNA, always take the following precautions:

Wear gloves
Avoid touching the area where you believe DNA may exist
Avoid talking, sneezing, and coughing over evidence
Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth when collecting and packaging evidence
Air-dry evidence thoroughly before packaging
Put evidence into new paper bags or envelopes, not into plastic bags

Transportation And Storage
When storing and transporting evidence that may contain DNA, it is important to keep the evidence dry and at room temperature. Once the evidence has been secured in paper bags or paper envelopes, it should be sealed, labeled, and transported in a way that ensures proper identification. Never place evidence that may contain DNA in plastic bags because plastic bags will retain damaging moisture and this produces an environment for bacteria or mold to grow and feed off of the DNA.

If you have any questions about these items and this type of testing, please contact us directly for a free consultation. 888-362-4339

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