UNMC’s Human DNA Identification Lab: A New Ally in Solving Cold Cases

The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) has recently achieved a significant milestone in forensic science. Its Human DNA Identification Lab has been granted a special accreditation that positions it as a crucial partner in solving cold case crimes. This new accreditation allows the lab to perform Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy (FIGG), a cutting-edge technique that has been instrumental in cracking some of the most challenging cases, including the infamous Golden State Killer.

The lab’s journey to this achievement began with an interest sparked by the popular TV series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and has culminated in a state-of-the-art facility capable of unraveling the mysteries of unsolved crimes. Under the leadership of Jess Cox, MD, PhD, and the management of Mellissa Helligso, the lab has already begun working on over a dozen homicide cases in Omaha, providing new hope for cases that have long remained in the shadows.

The accreditation, which places UNMC’s lab among only six in the country with this capability, was the result of meticulous preparation and an audit by the American National Standards Institute National Accreditation Board. The lab’s team, after securing funding from a private donor, spent most of the year testing the FIGG technology before moving forward for accreditation.

UNMC’s Human DNA Identification Lab: A New Ally in Solving Cold Cases

The technology itself is a marvel of modern forensic science. It enables the identification of unknown DNA by comparing it to extensive genealogical databases, thereby opening up new avenues for law enforcement agencies to pursue leads that were previously unattainable. The lab’s work is not just about solving crimes; it’s about bringing closure to families and justice to victims who have waited years, sometimes decades, for answers.

As the lab embarks on this new chapter, its impact is expected to extend far beyond the borders of Nebraska. The success of FIGG in high-profile cases has already demonstrated its potential, and with UNMC’s lab now accredited, the future looks promising for the resolution of many more cold cases. The lab’s work is a testament to the power of science and innovation in the service of justice and the community.


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