I like to work closely with the police and the forensic providers and carry out targeted research of benefit to the forensic community. My particular areas of interest are in the development of novel methods for the detection of body fluids; the analysis of trace DNA and methods to determine age of body fluid stains and the post mortem interval.
- ‘Light it Up’ The use of Antibody-functionalised super-paramagnetic nanoparticles for the detection of trace evidence
Investigators: Dr Richard Thorogate, Dr. Nunzianda Frascione, Dr Sue Jickells (PI), Dr. Barbara Daniel (Co-PI)
Collaborators: Professor David Russell University of East Anglia; Forensic Science Service, Home Office Scientific Development Branch, Forensic Explosives Laboratory, Foster and Freeman Ltd
Benefits: The location and identification of biological material is time consuming, subjective and, in cases of where only trace amounts are present, very difficult. This EPSRC ‘Think Crime’ funded project sought to address this using human and body fluid specific antibodies coupled to magnetic nano-particles. The latter providing a means of removing the un-bound reagent without recourse to a wash step. (Thorogate et al 2008; Frascione et al 2011 )
- Studying the nature of ‘touch DNA’
Investigators: Mr. Ignacio Quinones, Dr. Barbara Daniel (PI)
Collaborators: Metropolitan Police Forensic Services Directorate; Safer Streets Initiative.
Benefits: This project aims to determine the source of DNA transferred by touch; study the variability both between and within individuals and ultimately develop a method of extraction and amplification to maximise the potential of gaining usable DNA profiles from this evidence. The project began as part of the ‘Action against Violent Crime in London’ a collaboration between Metropolitan Police Forensic Services Directorate and Bart’s and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. This group now forms part of the ‘Safer Streets’ initiative (Quinones and Daniel, 2011)
- Detection of Autologous Blood Transfusion
Personnel: Dr. Nunzianda Frascione, Dr. Barbara Daniel (PI), Prof David Cowan (Co-I)
Benefits: This project is funded by ‘The Partnership for Clean Competition’ (PCC) and seeks to develop a method able to detect the transfusion of an athlete’s own blood prior to taking part in a sports event. Dr Frascione is investigating RNA degradation in stored RBC preparation to determine if a reliable marker can be found.
- Assessing post-mortem interval using tissue antioxidant and oxidative damage markers
Personnel: Dr. Panjai Woharndee, Dr. Ian Mudway (Co-PI), Dr Barbara Daniel (PI).
Benefits: Establishing the time since death or post-mortem interval (PMI) is crucial in criminal cases. This study makes use of tissue antioxidant (ascorbate, urate, and tocopherol) and oxidative damage marker (DNA fragmentation, 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine, protein carbonyls and malondialdehyde) concentrations as a means of obtaining robust measures of the PMI.
- The use of RNA markers in Forensic Science
Personnel: Mr Su Chih-Wen, Dr. Barry Panaretou (Co-PI), Dr Denise Sydercombe Court (Co-PI), Dr Barbara Daniel (PI).
Benefits: RNA markers not only have the propensity to definitively identify the source of biological material but could, potentially, give an indication of the time since deposition.
- The use of antibodies to detect menstrual and peripheral blood
Personnel: Ms Danielle Gray, Dr. Nunzianda Frascione, Dr Barbara Daniel (PI).
Collaborators: Forensic Science Service
Benefits: This work was commissioned by the Forensic Science Service who required a marker for menstrual v peripheral blood. Three target markers were evaluated by ELISA and immunocytochemistry. (Gray et al 2011)
- Evaluation of semen presumptive tests for use at crime scenes
Personnel: Ms. Áine Laffan, Mr Ian Sawyer, Mr Ignacio Quinones Dr Barbara Daniel (PI).
Collaborators: Metropolitan Police Forensic Services Directorate;
Benefits: The presumptive test for semen is the Brentamine test which detects acid phosphatase, an enzyme present at high concentration in semen. The reagent is toxic and the test has to be carried out using a fume hood. Recently Immunochromatographic membrane tests have been developed. These tests were evaluated with a view for their use in London Haven Suites for victims of rape. The selected test has been piloted and is soon to be incorporated as part of the rape investigation procedure. (Laffan , et al submitted 2011)
Safer Streets Initiative
Violent crime is a significant problem in London. The Safer Streets group has been created to improve the understanding of police forces in identifying forensic opportunities, and make appropriate use of current technologies.
The department of Forensic Science and Drug Monitoring is collaborating with the Metropolitan Police Service, Bart’s and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), London Ambulance Service (LAS) and the Tower Hamlets Local Council by combining resources and expertise to undertake research and development in the following core areas:
- Increasing our understanding of forensic opportunities generated through violent crime – contributing to an effective outcome through the Criminal Justice System or to exonerate the innocent.
- Improving methods of locating and developing forensic evidence, with the main focus on the transfer of DNA during the course of violent crime.
- Improving the interpretative value of forensic examinations- allowing the nature of the offence to be ascertained through forensic evidence.
- Developing an understanding of the relevant agencies’ capacity to identify ways of working together to tackle violent crime.
Dr Denise Syndercombe Court , Academic Haematology Unit - Pathology Group Blizard Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Barts and the London School of Medicine & Dentistry
Dr Syndercombe Court’s group is at the forefront of European initiatives in DNA profiling and the SNPforID project. We share supervision of three PhD students and the group are major contributors to the Forensic Science MSc.
British Academy of Forensic Sciences (Council Member)
Forensic Science Society
International Society for Forensic Genetics