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A single focus optical tweezer is formed when a laser beam is launched through a high numerical aperture immersion objective. This objective focuses the beam down to a diffraction-limited spot, which creates an optical trap where cells suspended in aqueous solutions can be held fixed. Spermatozoa, an often probative cell type in forensic investigations, can be captured inside this optical trap and dragged one by one across millimeter-length distances in order to create a cluster of cells which can be subsequently drawn up into a capillary for collection. Sperm cells are then ejected onto a sterile cover slip, counted, and transferred to a tube for DNA analysis workflow. The objective of this research was to optimize sperm cell collection for maximum DNA yield, and to determine the number of trapped sperm cells necessary to produce a full STR profile. A varying number of sperm cells from both a single-source semen sample and a mock sexual assault sample were isolated utilizing optical tweezers and processed using conventional STR analysis methods. Results demonstrated that approximately 50 trapped spermatozoa were required to obtain a consistently full DNA profile. A complete, single-source DNA profile was also achieved by isolating sperm cells via optical trapping from a mixture of sperm and vaginal epithelial cells. Based on these results, optical tweezers are a viable option for forensic applications such as separation of mixed populations of cells in forensic evidence.
© 2019 Auka et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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VCU Forensic Science Publications