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Correlation of microscopic and mitochondrial DNA analysis of hairs.

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Max M. Houck

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Expert opinions regarding the microscopic comparison of human hairs have been accepted routinely in courts for decades. However, with the advent of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing, an assessment can be made of the association by microscopic hair comparisons in casework between a questioned hair and reference hairs from an individual. While each method can be used separately, the two analytical methods can be complementary and together can provide additional information regarding source association. Human hairs submitted to the FBI Laboratory for analysis between 1996 and 2000 were reviewed. Of 170 hair examinations, there were 80 microscopic associations; of these, only nine were excluded by mtDNA. Importantly, 66 hairs that were considered either unsuitable for microscopic examinations or yielded inconclusive microscopic associations provided mtDNA results. Only six hairs did not provide sufficient mtDNA, and only three yielded inconclusive results. Consistency was observed in exculpatory results with the two procedures. This study demonstrates the utility of microscopic hair examinations and the strength of combining microscopic analysis with mtDNA sequencing.



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