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Forensic botany uses plant DNA to trace crimes

Date:
February 29, 2016
Source:
Sam Houston State University
Summary:
The field of forensic botany is being advanced with the publication of two recent studies that use marijuana DNA to link drug supplies and pollen DNA to aid in forensic investigations.
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Dr. David Gangitano is an associate professor in the Department of Forensic Science at Sam Houston State University.
Credit: Harriet McHale/SHSU

Sam Houston State University is advancing the field of forensic botany with the publication of two recent studies that use marijuana DNA to link drug supplies and pollen DNA to aid in forensic investigations.

In an article published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine, faculty and students from the Department of Forensic Science report that they developed a test to individualize samples of marijuana that could be used to link drugs across cases. The study examined 11 cases containing a total of 199 samples from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which included four matching genotypes indicating drugs came from the same source.

"The use of a DNA-based method for identification will allow federal law enforcement agencies (e.g., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)) to form links between cases involving the cross-border trafficking of Cannabis," said Dr. David Gangitano, one of the authors on the study.

In a second article published in Science and Justice, researchers found that pine pollen could provide a viable source of DNA for criminal investigations. Pine pollen remains viable for DNA testing for at least two weeks on cotton clothing and can help link a suspect or victim to a location. The study examined a new collection device, a high-throughput method for DNA extraction and amplification, and a newly-developed system for genotyping.

"This study has shown that pollen can be a stable source of forensic DNA evidence, as a proof-of-principle, and that may persist on cotton clothing for at least 14 days of wear," said Dr. Gangitano. "This method can be applied in forensic cases where pollen grains larger than 10 μm (e.g., from herbs or trees) may be transferred to clothing (worn by suspect or victim) by primary contact."


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Materials provided by Sam Houston State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal References:

  1. Rachel Houston, Matthew Birck, Sheree Hughes-Stamm, David Gangitano. Evaluation of a 13-loci STR multiplex system for Cannabis sativa genetic identification. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s00414-015-1296-x
  2. Rachel Houston, Matthew Birck, Sheree Hughes-Stamm, David Gangitano. Evaluation of a 13-loci STR multiplex system for Cannabis sativa genetic identification. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s00414-015-1296-x

Cite This Page:

Sam Houston State University. "Forensic botany uses plant DNA to trace crimes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160229140134.htm>.
Sam Houston State University. (2016, February 29). Forensic botany uses plant DNA to trace crimes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160229140134.htm
Sam Houston State University. "Forensic botany uses plant DNA to trace crimes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160229140134.htm (accessed May 27, 2017).

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