Successful DNA-based identification of mass disaster victims depends on acquiring tissues that are not highly degraded. In this study, multiple protocols for field preservation of tissues for later DNA analysis were tested. Skin and muscle samples were collected from decaying pig carcasses. Tissues were preserved using cold storage, desiccation, or room temperature storage in preservative solutions for up to 6 months. DNA quality was assessed through amplification of successively larger segments of nuclear DNA. Solution-based storage, including a DMSO/NaCl/EDTA mixture, alcohols, and RNAlater preserved DNA of the highest quality, refrigeration was intermediate, and desiccation was least effective. Tissue type and extent of decomposition significantly affected stored DNA quality. Overall, the results indicate that any tissue preservation attempt is far superior to delaying or forgoing preservation efforts, and that simple, inexpensive methods can be highly effective in preserving DNA, thus should be initiated as quickly as possible.
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