King's College London

Research portal

Exploration of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) recovery for touch deposits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number102431
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
PublishedMar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work was supported by the Fulbright-King's College London Partnership Award. Funding Information: This work was supported by the Fulbright-King’s College London Partnership Award . Publisher Copyright: © 2020 Elsevier B.V. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Although touch deposit DNA is widely used in forensic casework, its cellular and acellular contents and their biological origins are poorly understood. There is evidence that the cell-free component of DNA deposited by handling may contribute substantial genetic information; however, most research into touch DNA recovery does not separate cellular and cell-free fractions or seek to characterize their contents. This work is an important early step in developing methods to isolate the cfDNA from biological material deposited by handling. Size-filtration as a separation technique was determined to be prone to DNA loss, even on optimized control samples of pure ladder DNA. Centrifugal separation was optimized to determine minimum speed and time required to reliably remove all cellular debris from the material collected by rinsing donor hands. To determine if the centrifugal force risked rupturing shed corneocyte cells and releasing cellular DNA into the supernatant, DNA levels were measured, and cells were visualized microscopically before and after centrifugation of hand rinses. Heated buccal cells were used as a positive control to demonstrate cell rupture would be detected with these methods. Following the determination of a suitable separation technique, an investigation into purification methods for cfDNA was conducted. DNA recovery using three kits for plasma cfDNA, one for PCR clean-up and one for genomic DNA were assessed on both ladder DNA to simulate cfDNA fragments and on collected hand deposit supernatants from both unwashed and washed hands. Purification methods designed for recovery of short DNA fragments from plasma yielded the highest recovery percentage across sample types, with BioChain cfPure performing the best. Donors’ hands were shown to shed high levels of cfDNA, which were better recovered with a method for short fragments than with a traditional genomic technique often used on touch DNA samples.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454