The characteristics of STR profiles produced from approximately 1 ng starting template using the AMPFlSTR SGM Plus multiplex and 28 PCR cycles, are well documented. However, the analysis of samples perceived as low in starting template (less than 100 pg), and referred to as low template DNA (LTDNA), can require a test of higher sensitivity in order to achieve successful results. One way of increasing this sensitivity is to increase the number of PCR amplification cycles from 28 to 34. This type of analysis has become known as low copy number, or LCN, DNA profiling. Amplification of LTDNA under LCN conditions can result in increased incidents of profile characteristics such as allelic 'drop-in' and allelic 'drop-out'. Adopting a testing regime which includes duplicate analysis, and maintaining a laboratory environment of stringent and monitored cleanliness, enables the scientist to identify and control these phenomena for a reliable interpretation of the DNA profiling results. A recent court ruling has questioned the reliability of LCN analysis and commented on the paucity of publications surrounding the validation of the technique. We present data for the LCN validation undertaken in our laboratory, and describe the guidelines and working practices we have developed for the analysis and interpretation of profiles generated after LCN profiling. This study augments the published record relating to LCN validation and should act as a useful guide for other laboratories who are considering implementing LCN profiling.
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