Private Laboratories Conducting Forensic mtDna Casework

Several private laboratories in the United States have validated mtDNA procedures and offer mtDNA testing on a fee basis. These laboratories include Mitotyping Technologies, LLC (State College, Pennsylvania), ReliaGene Technologies, Inc. (New Orleans, Louisiana), Bode Technology Group (Springfield, Virginia), Orchid Cellmark (Dallas, Texas), the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center DNA Identity Lab (Ft. Worth, Texas), and Laboratory Corporation of America (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina). In addition, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (Rockville, Maryland) has a consultative services branch called AFDILcs that performs contract testing of civilian mtDNA cases. These laboratories typically charge around $2000 per sample for mtDNA testing in order to sequence the 610 nucleotides in HV1 and HV2.

It is interesting to consider some of the statistics noted by one of the private laboratories concerning their mtDNA analysis work. Mitotyping Technologies reported on processing 105 cases between February 1999 and February 2001 (Melton and Nelson 2001). These cases involved 199 questioned items of which 130 were hairs. A total of 137 known reference samples were also processed including 111 that were in the form of blood. Only 17 of their 199 questioned samples failed to yield any mtDNA amplification products. Length heteroplasmy was observed 15 times in the HV1 C-stretch region and 77 times in the HV2 C-stretch region with 17 samples having both HV1 and HV2 length heteroplasmy. Sequence site hetero-plasmy was reported 19 times mostly at positions 16093 but also at nucleotide positions 16166, 16286, 72, 152, 189, 207, and 279. In 57 out of 105 cases (54.3%), the known reference sample could not be excluded as donor of a biological sample.

ISSUES IMPACTING INTERPRETATION

In this section, we will consider several issues that often arise when considering mtDNA evidence particularly in courts of law (see Walker 2003).

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