A Powder-free DNA Extraction Workflow for Skeletal Samples

J Forensic Sci. 2020 Mar;65(2):601-609. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.14197. Epub 2019 Oct 2.


The processing of skeletal material poses several challenges for forensic laboratories. Current methods can be laborious, time-consuming, require dedicated equipment, and are vulnerable to contamination. In this study, various sample mass (1 × 50 mg, 3 × 50 mg, and 1 × 150 mg chip(s)) and incubation times (2, 4, and 16 h) were tested using the PrepFiler® BTA™ Forensic DNA Extraction Kit to digest whole bone chips in lieu of powdering. The most effective method was then applied to bones and tooth fragments collected from contemporary human cadavers exposed to various environmental conditions using an automated platform. Over a third of the samples tested generated full DNA profiles without having to powder the bone/tooth fragment or further alter the manufacturer's protocol. However, for most samples resulting in incomplete STR profiles due to low amounts of DNA, slightly better results were achieved with powdered tissue. Overall, this work demonstrates the potential use of a faster, nonpowdering DNA extraction method for processing skeletal samples as an effective first-pass screening tool.

Keywords: DNA; PrepFiler® BTA™ forensic DNA extraction kit; bone; forensic biology; forensic science; short tandem repeats; skeletonized human remains.

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / chemistry*
  • DNA / isolation & purification*
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • Forensic Genetics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Tooth / chemistry*
  • Workflow


  • DNA