Genomics in forensic services

Our forensic specialists are exploring the use of genomics to help solve crimes and determine cause of death in some unexplained cases.

fassdnaHow genomics could help us solve crimes 

  • Scientists at our Forensic & Analytical Science Service analyse crime scene samples (including DNA material) submitted by NSW Police Force. DNA samples are cross-checked against already existing profiles on the National Criminal Investigation Database in the hopes of making a match with a potential offender. When there isn’t a match, the DNA profiling usually hits a dead end.
  • Genomic technologies like Massively Parallel Sequencing offer the potential to pinpoint known DNA markers as well as ‘predictive’ information, such as hair and eye colour, bio-geographical ancestry and other features. This information can offer new investigative avenues that help police solve crimes.
  • Earlier this year, the Forensic & Analytical Science Service hosted a week-long workshop at its DNA Research Laboratory to road-test the technology and evaluate performance in collaboration with scientists and academics from across Australia.

How genomics could support forensic medicine

  • Our forensic pathologists are also exploring how genomics could enhance certain post mortems conducted at the request of the NSW Coroner.
  • Certain sets of genes or changes in genes are known to be associated with particular disease processes. By using genomic sequencing technologies, our forensic pathologists may be able to carry out molecular testing which could help identify potential risks to surviving relatives.
  • In cases where no cause of death could be determined at autopsy, genomic testing may also help identify genetic abnormalities that lead to disorders such as Long QT syndrome – a heart rhythm condition that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats and potentially trigger fainting spells, seizures and sudden death.
  • Such advances would not only provide closure to families, but also identify potentially treatable conditions that could prevent further sudden unexpected deaths in the same family

For more information about how genomics could help us solve crimes, contact Sharon Neville of our Forensic & Analytical Science Service on 9646-0222.

For more information about how genomics could support forensic medicine, contact Isabel Brouwer of our Forensic Medicine service on 8584-7800.