About Touch DNA- Bode Technology
Posted in the JonBenet Ramsey Forum
#1 Jul 15, 2008
In response to several questions I asked them about Touch DNA in this case, Bode Technology sent me this:
Touch DNA Evidence
As forensic DNA technology has become a common tool in criminal investigations, scientists have attempted
to obtain DNA evidence from what were once considered unlikely sources.“Touch DNA” refers to the DNA
that is left behind from skin cells when a person touches or comes into contact with an item.
Humans shed tens of thousands of skin cells each day, and these cells are transferred to every surface our
skin contacts. When a crime is committed, if the perpetrator deposits a sufficient number of skin cells on an
item at the scene, and that item is collected as possible evidence, touch DNA analysis may be able to link
the perpetrator to the crime scene. Touch DNA has been successfully sampled from countless items
including gun grips, steering wheels, eating utensils, and luggage handles, just to name a few.
However, since Touch DNA is usually deposited in smaller amounts than the DNA found in bloodstains or
other body fluids, it is more difficult to obtain DNA profiles from touch DNA samples. The key to obtaining
successful Touch DNA results depends on recognizing items which may be suitable for Touch DNA analysis
and using the sampling technique that will recover the highest number of skin cells.
Many labs test for Touch DNA using either the swabbing or cutting method. In the “swabbing method”, the
surface of the item is rubbed with a cotton swab to collect possible cells. This method is preferred for hard
items such as glass or plastic. The “cutting method” may be used for soft items, such as clothing, in which
fabric from areas of interest is cut to collect possible cells. These two approaches can be successful on
many items of evidence and both are used by Bode Technology; however they both have the limitation of
placing unnecessary substrate (the cotton swab itself or the fabric cuttings) into the small DNA processing
tube. There is a limited amount of substrate that can be placed in a tube, and the substrate itself may “trap”
some cells during processing, which would decrease the likelihood of obtaining results.
In addition to the commonly used swabbing and cutting methods, Bode has recently started using the
“scraping method”, in which the surface of soft items (such as clothing) is scraped with a blade to collect
possible cells. Due to the lack of unnecessary substrate generated by this method (scraping produces a
small “pile” of fiber, cells, and debris that can easily be placed in the DNA processing tube), a larger surface
area can be sampled. An increase in surface area increases the number of possible cells recovered;
therefore, increasing the chances of obtaining a DNA profile.
The scraping method is ideal in situations where the scientist can locate areas on the item which are most
likely to contain the perpetrator’s skin cells. If clothing were left at the crime scene by the perpetrator,
pressure points on the clothing such as the interior neck of a shirt or the band inside a hat, are excellent
candidates for the scraping method. In addition, in a sexual assault case in which the victim’s clothing had
been removed by the perpetrator, areas such as the waistband may contain sufficient cells belonging to the
perpetrator to produce a profile.
Through improvements in sampling methods corresponding to increasingly sensitive DNA testing methods,
and through continual education of the criminal justice community regarding the testing possibilities, Touch
DNA is enabling forensic scientists to provide information in cases which were once unsolvable.
#2 Jul 16, 2008
Thanks, candy. I have to go but will read more carefully later. Did I miss that they said this IS admissable in court? Or did they even address that? Sorry, my eyes are starting to blur.
#3 Jul 16, 2008
They didn't address that. I didn't ask. They didn't address my question if mostly saliva DNA sample can be transferred and show up as just skin cells either. I asked also was Touch DNA the same as low copy DNA. They just sent me this and said we hope this answers your questions.
Since: Jul 08
#4 Jul 16, 2008
Candy, as I said earlier "Low Copy DNA" is the same as "Touch DNA"...it's also known as LCN..."low copy number"...
In fact you will find far more references of importance to the procedure if you search for "Low Copy DNA".
I think I posted a link yesterday...but, in any case beyond all the references you will find through a normal search...the FSS (forensic Science Service) in the UK is a great resource as they were the first to develop the procedure.
I also recommend using Google's "Scholar" search option as there are many citations there as well.
#5 Jul 17, 2008
I’m not a DNA expert, or medically qualified. I think Dr Elvis on Sycamore forum posts sense about the Ramsey case DNA matter.
This touch DNA seems to have been developed by Dr Peter Gill, and others, at the Forensic Science Services in Birmingham, UK, since about 2000. I have a high regard for Dr Gill’s abilities. From what I can make out this touch DNA can be used to extract DNA from things like fingerprints. That is obviously of interest to police forces around the world.
The problem with this touch DNA seems to be that it’s not quite as hundred percent accurate as, say, a DNA test from a suspect’s blood sample. It’s not everything that gives a complete DNA profile. DNA testing for urine, for example, has always been a bit of problem, although I believe there have been advances in that in recent years.
The main problem with this touch DNA from a legal point of view is whether it’s admissible in court. There are similar sorts of legal problems with polygraphs.
In the UK not so long ago there was a big court case involving one of the Irish murderers in that horrific Omagh Northern Ireland bombing. That Irish murderer walked free because his lawyers were able to cast doubt on the legal admissibility, and the accuracy of touch DNA.
There were similar sorts of legal arguments about DNA in the OJ Simpson case in America. The OJ Simpson defense lawyers were able somehow to put all sorts of doubts about DNA into the minds of the OJ Simpson case jurors about that DNA.
Personally, I think that was because most of the jurors had never heard of DNA, and they knew next to nothing about it.
In a way I agree with Mary Lacy that this recent DNA evidence in the Ramsey case is powerful evidence. As far as I’m concerned, the panties JonBenet was found in were new and the DNA evidence in the panties is pristine. I suppose theoretically the Borg could argue it hasn’t been proven that they were never washed.
The long johns don’t seem to have been new. It’s a strange coincidence that the touch DNA in the long johns matches the JonBenet panty DNA. The fingernail DNA is more problematic, and incomplete. The Borg seem to argue that the fingernail DNA could come from anywhere. It seems a bit fishy to me.
The only thing I disagree with Mary Lacy a bit about all this is that I can’t quite see, from a legal point of view, that this recent DNA news is PROOF that this DNA is the actual murderer’s DNA.
I realize that’s what John Ramsey, and others, believe, but I don’t think even Lin Wood was so adamant about that a few years ago. Lin Wood may have changed his tune a bit about that since then, but he would wouldn’t he?
#6 Jul 17, 2008
There seem to be a lot of unseemly legal wrangles about forensics in courtroom murder cases. There certainly were in the MacDonald false conviction case in 1979 with regard to hair and fibers and blood evidence, and there still are in that case.
There have even been doubts in the past about some fingerprint evidence in some murder cases.
The thing that worries me about some of this hair and fiber evidence in murder cases is the way a dishonest cop or prosecutor, can simply manufacture fiber evidence from nowhere, and to put it in plain English, tell lies about the matter.
That is even more worrying when prosecutors, like Murtagh and Blacburn in the MacDonald case, deliberately flout the American Brady law on disclosure of exculpatory forensic evidence and they hide the forensic lab notes from the defense. That happened in the MacDonald case, and possibly the Darlie Routier case.
This is an internet article about the past controversy of touch DNA in the UK:
"Regulator backs use of DNA technique in court cases·
Robert Booth 2008 04 11
* Review supports method based on tiny samples
* Call for improvements in collection and analysis
Tiny samples of DNA evidence are safe to use in criminal prosecutions, in spite of recent concern from the police and the judiciary that the technique is flawed, the forensic science regulator has ruled.
Andrew Rennison was responding to an independent report by scientists at the University of Strathclyde into the analysis of low-template DNA - amounts too small for standard DNA profiling. The report found the technique to be scientifically sound and Professor Brian Caddy, who carried out the review, said it should not cause wrongful convictions.
The review comes after last December's verdict in the Omagh bombing case where Sean Hoey, a republican, was acquitted of killing 29 people in 1998. The British-pioneered low-copy DNA technique of amplifying small amounts of genetic material so it can be read was used in the prosecution case and in his verdict Mr Justice Weir, the trial judge, said he was not satisfied that it was valid for use as evidence. He said that in the Omagh case the DNA material had been so amateuris
Low-template DNA is also known as "touch DNA" because investigators can extract samples from just four or five cells deposited by suspects only briefly holding objects such as a gun, a door handle or a glass. The technique was used in the Peter Falconio murder trial in Australia as well as the conviction of the rapist Antoni Imiela, who struck several times in south-east England.
If the review had found problems with the science it could have triggered the re-examination of scores of criminal cases. However, the review's authors called for improvements in the collection of DNA from crime scenes and in its analysis, to avoid the evidence becoming unusable.
Caddy made 21 recommendations to standardise procedures , including ensuring that police evidence-gathering kits are "DNA-clean", to avoid contamination with someone else's genetic profile, a national agreement on how to interpret the results from low-template DNA, and clear guidance on how courts should interpret the evidence. The report's authors also voiced concern at the quality of forensic science conducted by police laboratories, which often analyse low-template DNA
The Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales recommended that chief constables suspend its use in criminal investigations while a review was carried out by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The CPS review concluded that "low-copy number DNA analysis provided by the Forensic Science Service should remain as potentially admissible evidence".
Since: Jul 08
#7 Jul 17, 2008
I've read all these articles as well...
One big difference in this case is the Low Copy DNA was NOT the only test...it confirmed and supported earlier testing...
I do agree with those questioning this test for wide-spread use in criminal cases where this is the ONLY DNA test....
The test is very sensitive...which is the main asset but also the main drawback. So using it alone with no other forensic or other traditional DNA it would be questioned IMO.
But, in the Ramsey case where it is used on a separate piece of clothing...and separate sample...it's very powerful IMO.
There are some wonderful videos available on BBC, I think, or maybe another television source in the UK...with long detailed interviews with the folks questioning the test in the case you speak of...I've listened to them all.
#8 Jul 17, 2008
This reminds me to note that while gloves are used during the processing of "touch" DNA, the very gloves themselves were touched by the bare hands of the person who put them on. Extremely sensitive DNA tests, then, might detect the presence on a crime-scene item of skin cells from the DNA tech which adhered to the outside surface of the gloves while they were being put on, cells which then shed or were rubbed off onto the item being handled by the now-gloved examiner. Under that hypothetical circumstance, it might be a no-brainer at all that cells would be found where the examiner scraped, since the examiner is the source. Bode should really make it clear whether or not all people in their labs who processed the Ramsey samples were themselves eliminated as having contributed to it.
#9 Jul 17, 2008
Surely the legal argument there would be that this Bode lab had nothing to do with the testing of the earlier first blood spot in JonBenet's panties in 1997, and the testing of the second blood spot, somewhere around 2003?
I realize the Borg, or anti-Ramsey, people are going to use a contamination argument to discredit the Ramsey case DNA, or to say that the DNA could have come from anybody, or anywhere, at any time.
It's just a contamination argument or an Asian sneeze argument, or an artifact argument, looks rather weak now that the same DNA has been definitely found on two completely separate articles of JonBenet's clothing.
It's a very strange coincidence, and it's highly suspicious. As Lou Smit has said in the past, somebody has some explaining to do.
The trouble is it's still highly unlikely he will ever be caught.
I don't know much about all that Mark Beckner talk of 200 DNA samples having been taken with regard to the Ramsey case. I suspect many of those samples were on some local pedophile list in Boulder. Other DNA tests seem to include people like Doug Stine and Jeff Ramsey, who to my mind are way off the radar in the Ramsey case.
I would like to see an official announcement that people like Fleet White, and his 1996 Christmas house guests Gaston and Cox, and even Chris Wolf, and Joe Barnhill Jr, were definitely, and properly, DNA tested.
I don't like all this talk of Ramsey case DNA tests being inconclusive It's always amazed me that Nancy Krebs' Uncle Johnny has never been identified, even by Lou Smit and Ollie Grey and the Californian police.
Uncle Johnny might be involved, or even dare I say Tom Miller. There may be other people from California who were in Boulder that Christmas and knew Fleet White, or anywhere else, who have so far never been detected.
I've never seen any firm evidence that Uncle Johnny was JonBenet's father, as Nancy Krebs half-suspects. Frankly, I don't believe that.
#10 Jul 17, 2008
Exactly Why Nut. Exactly.
#11 Jul 17, 2008
You sound like you just had one too many shock treatments. Don't you or your Evening 2 alikes ever get embarrassed that you sound completely off your rocker.
#12 Jul 17, 2008
See, that is the key right there. The longjohns and the underwear were NOT two *completely* separate items. They touched each other, they were items which were rubbing quite thoroughly against each other (though, oddly, the blood in the underwear seems to have not left a single cell on the longjohns). If the longjohns had been found with DNA matching the underwear, but they were found discarded next to the paint tray outside the windowless room, THAT would be an example of "completely separate."
#13 Jul 17, 2008
Interesting hypothetical, why_nut and I'm growing more concerned by the day about the turn DNA technology is taking. On one hand, I know that this these tests have the potential to solve many cold cases. On the other, the sensitivity of the tests is alarming.
I used to be a jewerly artist and as you can probably imagine, this involved extensive handling of the stones and metals used create the pieces. Although I cleaned each piece with a soft cloth before sending it out, the liklihood that my "touch DNA" remained on the jewelry is still quite high. What are the chances that my DNA would be then be transferred to other items that were stored in proximity or to the wearer herself? This is a frightening prospect.
I believe this is still a possibility in the case of the underwear and long johns. A serum based DNA stain being present on the Bloomies(if this is found to be a fact), IMO, does not preclude that the same handler deposited "touch DNA" on the sides of the waistband of the underwear, in turn depositing cells on the long johns in the same area.
Research also shows that DNA can be transferred from other crime scenes or from within the same crime scene via brushes, powder and gloves. We know that JonBenet's body and clothing was processed for latent prints before her clothing was ever tested.
Since: Jul 08
#14 Jul 17, 2008
No, this is a huge stretch that does NOT in any way align with the facts or even the science of these forensic tests.
Nice spin though...
#15 Jul 17, 2008
Edit:(added "and clothing") forgot to edit "was" to "were"
#16 Jul 17, 2008
That's fair comment from Indigo. I don't want to be severe in my criticism of Indigo's theory of it could have happened that way.
It's just that on a matter of fact I would like to have an exact reference, or quote, about fingerprints being tested on JonBenet's clothing before any DNA testing happened.
I realize that may be a difficult, and perhaps not a fair question for Indigo. The JonBenet crime scene investigators have never held a press conference about whether they ever tested the panties, or long johns, for fingerprints.
That information may be in the Ramsey case files somewhere, but as far as I know it's never been made public.
The only quote I've ever seen about that matter is that the Ramsey house was full of fingerprint powder from top to bottom.
I would have thought JonBenet's clothing would have been carefully removed at the JonBenet autopsy and then put in special bags and then sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation forensic lab. What the lab technicians did there has never really been made public either.
Since: Jul 08
#17 Jul 17, 2008
This article on the Masters case is a good reference on how Touch DNA is used...
From the article:
But Richard Eikelenboom, the scientist who harvested the full genetic profile from the waistband of Hettrick's panties, insists that only "force," not casual touching, can leave such an imprint.
"If you obtain it (the full profile), we only did it in cases where we pretty sure force was applied, where clothes were torn apart or pulled down roughly," said Eikelenboom, who targeted only those areas on her clothing where the killer was believed to have forcefully grabbed her to pull her into the field or to remove her garments.
#18 Jul 17, 2008
Thanks, Mame. I'll be sure to read this.
#19 Jul 17, 2008
Thanks, Henri. I understand what you're saying...will do more research on this point.
#20 Jul 17, 2008
Thanks again for the link to this interesting article. It seems, though, that Eikelenboom is of one opinion--that it takes force to leave Touch DNA--while many others in the field warn of even casual contact with the items to be tested:
Educating crime scene personnel
• If possible, use disposable instruments to
pick up items
• Otherwise, clean items with 10% bleach &
alcohol between samples
• Try not to touch the area you want tested!
• Use of cell phones in the crime scene
may result in inadvertent contamination
of an item if gloves have not been
• Change gloves with EVERY item!
• No smoking IN the crime scene
One last point that I found interesting is this:
• Carefully weigh the value of a
possible latent print against a
possible DNA profile
•“Touch” DNA is not meant to
replace latent prints!
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