DNA identification of human remains has a valuable role in the field of forensic science and wider. Although DNA is vital in identification of unknown human remains, post-mortem environmental factors can lead to poor molecular preservation. In this respect, focus has been placed on DNA extraction methodologies for hard tissue samples, as these are the longest surviving. Despite decades of research being conducted on DNA extraction methods for bone and teeth, little consensus has been reached as to the best performing. Therefore, the aim of this study was to conduct a thorough systematic literature review to identify potential DNA extraction technique(s) which perform optimally for forensic DNA profiling from hard tissue samples. PRISMA guidelines were used, by which a search strategy was developed. This included identifying databases and discipline specific journals, keywords, and exclusion and inclusion criteria. In total, 175 articles were identified that detailed over 50 different DNA extraction methodologies. Results of the meta-analysis conducted on 41 articles – meeting further inclusion criteria – showed that statistically significant higher DNA profiling success was associated with solid-phase magnetic bead/resin methods. In addition, incorporating a demineralisation pre-step resulted in significantly higher profiling successes. For hard tissue type, bone outperformed teeth, and even though dense cortical femur samples were more frequently used across the studies, profiling success was comparable, and in some cases, higher in cancellous bone samples. Notably, incomplete data sharing resulted in many studies being excluded, thus an emphasis for minimum reporting standards is made. In conclusion, this study identifies strategies that may improve success rates of forensic DNA profiling from hard tissue samples. Finally, continued improvements to current methods can ensure faster times to resolution and restoring the identity of those who died in obscurity.
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