Thanks to a generous package deal that we received from our partners at Applied Biosystems/Thermo Fisher Scientific, we were able to secure and now receive three of the core instruments of a Forensic DNA Testing Laboratory. The laboratory is getting very close to performing the validation prep work that will lead us to opening our doors to the public.
Here is the ABI 3500 Genetic Analyzer within the laboratory. This instrument provides the DNA profiles that are analyzed and compared in Forensic DNA. It uses florescently labeled dyes detected by a laser to generate an "electropherogram" that DNA analysts use to decipher the DNA profile obtained from evidence and known samples (suspect/victim etc.). The analyst then compares these profiles to determine if they "match".
Below are the other two instruments that arrived and were set up yesterday. On the left is a QuantStudio v5. This instrument provides an estimate of the amount of DNA that is obtained from an item of evidence in the case. With that initial estimation of how much DNA is present, the Forensic DNA Scientist can determine how much DNA is needed to generate a DNA profile. Forensic DNA operates on the "Goldilocks principle". You can't have too much or too little DNA, it has to be "just right" to generated a viable profile in traditional Forensic DNA Testing. The QuantStudio will show us how much we have to start with so we can accurately determine how much to send along in the process.
On the right is the ProFlex Thermal Cycler. This is a "DNA Photocopier". After quantification of the DNA, the Forensic Scientists uses this instrument to make billions of copies of the DNA. This allows minute amounts of DNA to be amplified into enough copies to be detected by the 3500. At the same time, the florescent tags are attached to the DNA that allows the 3500 Genetic Analyzer to detect them. By choosing the ProFlex, our laboratory will have the flexibility to run anywhere from 24 samples all the way to 192 samples at one time within the instrument. We'll be ready to grow and have the flexibility to get there!
We'd like to thank Applied Biosystems for the assistance in getting our laboratory up and running and specifically call out Amie Ingold, our account manager, for the hands-on assistance to make this dream a reality.
Here's the obligatory "setting up the instrument selfie". You may notice a familiar face to the Salt Lake City Forensic DNA community hanging out and helping get these up and running. Stay tuned!