Monday, October 14, 2013

Using Microbiome for Forensics Applications

In a paper titled "A Microbial Clock Provides an Accurate Estimate of the Postmortem Interval in a Mouse Model System," which appeared in a September issue of eLIFE (online science and biomedical journal), researchers used a sequencing-based method to determine postmortem interval time of death in criminal investigations. Current forensic means of diagnosing the time of death are variable in their success rate and include: corpse temperatures, insect coverage on a cadaver, and extent of rigor mortis. Researchers tracked the changes in microbial communities on the head, torso, body cavities, and grave soil of 40 mice over a period of 48 days. At regular intervals (8 different points equally distributed across those 48 days), the researchers used complementary sequencing technology (Illumina High Sequence Platform and Pacific Biosciences RS Platform used to sequence rRNA) to characterize microbial environment on different parts of the body. The results showed that the microbial patterns were consistent among individual mice at each time-interval. This genomic research has interesting forensic applications.

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