Last January and February I completed an internship at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in the Department of Forensic Biology (New York City, NY). The internship was supervised by Jason Kolowski (’98) and sponsored by Dimensions. I worked as a research assistant with Kolowski on the characterization of mitochondrial length and point heteroplasmy. I worked with state-of-the-art equipment and processed “waste” tissue from formalin-fixed post-mortem liver samples. We attempted to develop a protocol to extract mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from human “waste” tissue. We made numerous modifications to the standard procedure in order to obtain minute traces of mtDNA. The main changes we made included longer cell digestion periods, and using larger formalin-fixed tissue samples as well as paraffin-embedded tissue samples. “Fresh” post-mortem liver samples were also used. There were problems with each source of tissue. It is difficult to isolate enough mtDNA from formalin-fixed “waste” tissue to obtain a DNA profile. Paraffin-embedded tissue needs to be ten-years old and the amount of tissue available is miniscule. Fresh tissue is the best source. However, obtaining fresh tissue for research purposes is problematic because consent must be granted from the next-of-kin, and the Chief Medical Examiner is against contacting the family of a recently deceased individual.
Tatiana Batson, ’10 Wauconda, IL
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Sponsor: Craig Tepper