Proving sexual assault cases in court often faces multiple challenges, but research assistant professor Mike Marciano is working to help change that.

Two people in white coats looking at a computer screen

Forensic graduate student Amber Vandepoele (front) and Research Assistant Professor Mike Marciano reviewing data from the DEPArray system.

The Director of Research at the Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute (FNSSI) at the University of Arts and Sciences in Marciano recently contributed to the National Institute of Justice’s Center for Forensic Technology Center of Excellence Report in May 2022. Extraction and sperm isolation for sexual assault investigations. Marciano, a subject matter expert who received a PhD from Syracuse, created a section titled “Syracuse University Investigated the Use of His DEPArray System to Evaluate a Sample of Challenging Sexual Assault Kits.” Did.

Simply put, current methods of collecting forensic evidence from victims of sexual assault involve collecting samples and testing for DNA. If DNA is found, it is entered into the FBI’s DNA indexing system. This allows law enforcement agencies to search for matches that can identify possible criminals, link cases, or provide other important information that may help solve a crime. This has long been the standard process for DNA testing, but it is time consuming and usually lacks the ability to detect DNA from very small samples or samples that have been older than 72 hours after a sexual assault.

In 2013, Marciano was asked by a former colleague if he would be interested in testing a new instrument with the ability to better detect DNA. Marciano began his career at the crime laboratory of Onondaga His County (New York) Forensic Center and has devoted himself to this type of research. After that, he was a senior researcher at the research and development company SRC before entering university, where he now conducts overseas research at FNSSI. The opportunity to try out this new technology was one he couldn’t turn down.

The DEPArray NxT system (above) was created by the Italian company Manarini Silicon Biosystems for use in cancer research, but has since found other uses. According to Marciano, the epithelial (or skin) cells and sperm cells are separated prior to extraction through a process that allows the total number of epithelial and sperm cells and the amount of DNA in the sample to be calculated more quickly and efficiently. It also removes possible impurities.

In addition, DEPArray can detect DNA from samples taken 72 hours later or even when very small samples of sperm that are often undetectable by current methods are found, such as when there are mixed samples with multiple contributors. makes it possible to identify

“At FNSSI, we have completed up to 200 runs on these instruments. I would like to,” says Marciano. “Our mission is to support and advance innovation in forensic genetics. Exciting work!”

A person who prepares a sample to load onto a computer

Amber Vandepoele loading the sample into the DEPArray machine

The technology provided by DEPArray is promising, but the problem is that the results are not currently accepted in court.

“The methods that are already in place are proven and there is always resistance to change,” he says of legal standards. “Academic researchers like myself hope to gather enough evidence behind this new technology to become part of the standard legal process and work well enough to move into the forensic world. I have to prove it.”


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