Technicians at the Forensic Science Laboratory in Madiwala here have a tough job on hand. Short-staffed, the laboratory is working overtime to analyse the DNA samples of the 26 victims of the Nanded Express fire accident and match them with their relatives’.

Sources in the laboratory say that the process of analysing the samples had become tedious, as there are only two technicians at the laboratory who can handle DNA profiling.

Although the process of recruiting 50 technicians had begun in January, appointments are yet to be made.

DNA profiling, also called genetic fingerprinting, is a technique employed by forensic scientists to help identify individuals.

As many as 15 doctors from the Department of Forensic Medicine of Victoria and Bowring and Lady Curzon hospitals worked till 1.30 a.m. on Sunday to draw samples of blood and liver tissues from the 26 bodies and 19 relatives for matching.

“We have drawn samples of only 19 relatives as six bodies were handed over to the relatives after due identification on Saturday, and two more on Sunday. The samples were sent to the laboratory on Sunday morning,” said P.K. Devadas, Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine.

The process of analysing the samples could be completed only by Tuesday evening. The set of 19 DNA samples would have to be tested against each one of the DNA samples of the victims. In other words, the DNA sample of a victim has to be matched with 19 sets of relatives to identify which one it is similar with.

According to a technician, DNA profiles are encrypted sets of numbers that reflect a person’s DNA makeup. The process begins with DNA extraction from a reference sample.

After the DNA extraction, the technicians have to amplify the telltale DNA regions to make millions of copies of the sample using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Then a DNA profile is created using a genetic analyser.

“Once the DNA profiles are generated, each profile has to be fed into the computer in a tabular form. After this, we will compare the tabulated profiles of the victims with that of the relatives to determine whether there is a genetic match,” the technician explained. Usually for genetic matching, samples are collected from direct blood relatives — parents or siblings, the technician added.

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