Josh Kapp, UC Santa Cruz PhD student

Remarkable research happening on the central coast to fight crime. A lab at UC Santa Cruz is able to get DNA from root-less hair, and the technology has already been used to crack a major case

Alani Letang | KSBW | September18, 2019

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. —
Remarkable research happening on the central coast to fight crime. A lab at University of California Santa Cruz is able to get DNA from rootless hair, and the technology has already been used to crack a major case.

Contrary to what you see on TV, scientist can’t get enough sufficient DNA from hair strands left on clothes without the root. Scientist said the shaft of the hair does not have DNA for current techniques to process. The UC Santa Cruz bio med lab is able to process those strands with small DNA sizes. The team is led by professor Dr. Ed Green, a doctoral student and a lab technician.

“Now we have created solutions to access this material that’s been under used for decades,” said Josh Kapp, UC Santa Cruz doctoral researcher.

That material is from the shaft of the hair. Researchers said often times law enforcement agencies will test hair by comparison or let it sit in evidence for years and degrade, creating backlogs.

The process can take up to a month or longer. Currently, the team is testing hundreds of hair samples sent from law enforcement agencies across the country. The team first suits up in a sterile room to wash the hair, one strand at a time, and extract DNA. The hair is then dissolved and prepped for sequencing.

“That’s where we have made strides in forensics. We’ve developed techniques to really process the small quantities and small fragments of these really degraded samples,” said Kapp.

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