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Cell type determination and association with the DNA donor

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FOSW03 - Statistical Modelling of Scientific Evidence

Co-authors: Wessel Oosterman (University of Amsterdam), Bas Kokshoorn (Netherlands Forensic Institute), Marjan Sjerps (Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics, University of Amsterdam)

In forensic casework, evidence regarding the type of cell material contained in a stain can be crucial in determining what happened. For example, a DNA match in a sexual offense can become substantially more incriminating when there is evidence supporting that semen cells are present.

Besides the question which cell types are present in a sample, also the question who donated what (association) is very relevant. This question is surprisingly difficult, even for stains with a single donor. The evidential value of a DNA profile needs to be combined with knowledge regarding the specificity and sensitivity of cell type tests. This, together with prior probabilities for the different donor-cell type combinations, determines the most likely combination.

We present a Bayesian network that can assist in associating donors and cell types. A literature overview on the sensitivity and specificity of three cell type tests (PSA test for seminal fluid, RSID saliva and RSID semen) is helpful in assigning conditional probabilities. The Bayesian network is linked with a software package for interpreting mixed DNA profiles. This allows for a sensitivity analysis that shows to what extent the conclusion depends on the quantity of available research data. This can aid in making decisions regarding further research.

It is shown that the common assumption that an individual (e.g. the victim) is one of the donors in a mixed DNA profile can have unwanted consequences for the association between donors and cell types.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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