Abbott said today that it has entered into an agreement with the University of North Texas Health Science Center to evaluate the company's Plex-ID instrument for use in analyzing human remains to support missing persons and human trafficking investigations.
Under the agreement, Abbott has installed a Plex-ID analyzer at UNT Health Science Center and is supplying the Plex-ID mtDNA assay to characterize mitochondrial DNA from aged or degraded biological specimens such as hair, tissue, bones, teeth, and body fluids.
Mitochondrial DNA is directly inherited by children from their mothers and is present at hundreds or thousands of copies per cell. In forensics, mtDNA testing often is the only suitable method for analyzing highly degraded samples. For cases that have gone unsolved for many years, mtDNA testing compares mtDNA profiles from unidentified remains with those from maternal relatives to help identify missing persons or victims of homicides or natural disasters.
The Plex-ID analyzer is capable of running both mtDNA and nuclear DNA forensics assays in a single, fully automated run, Abbott said. The platform combines sample preparation, PCR amplification, and high-precision electrospray ionization mass spectrometry to establish and compare the base mtDNA profile derived from biological specimens.
"Working with the UNT Health Science Center is a major step toward establishing Plex-ID as a system of choice for DNA testing in forensics laboratories," Steven Hofstadler, divisional vice president of research and development for Abbott's Ibis Biosciences subsidiary, said in a statement. UNT Health Science Center works closely with state and federal law enforcement agencies and identifies a large percentage of human remains found in the United States every year.
Abbott launched the Plex-ID system in 2009 as a next-generation version of the T5000 Biosensor system it brought on board earlier that year with its acquisition of Ibis Biosciences. According to Abbott, Plex-ID can identify a broad range of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and certain parasites, and provide information about drug resistance, virulence, and strain type. Abbott has been marketing the system for use in public health applications including epidemiologic surveillance, monitoring pandemic diseases, and identifying emerging or previously unknown agents.
In April 2010, the company said that the system was being used for molecular identification and characterization of emerging infectious organisms as part of a biopreparedness evaluation program in collaboration with the Association of Public Health Laboratories and five state public health labs (PCR Insider, 4/15/10).
Abbott introduced the Plex-ID mtDNA assay in 2011.