This study is the first to report the successful development of a method to extract opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.) DNA from heroin samples. Determining of the source of an unknown heroin sample (forensic geosourcing) is vital to informing domestic and foreign policy related to counter-narcoterrorism. Current profiling methods focus on identifying process-related chemical impurities found in heroin samples. Changes to the geographically distinct processing methods may lead to difficulties in classifying and attributing heroin samples to a region/country. This study focuses on methods to optimize the DNA extraction and amplification of samples with low levels of degraded DNA and inhibiting compounds such as heroin. We compared modified commercial-off-The-shelf extraction methods such as the Qiagen Plant, Stool and the Promega Maxwell-16 RNA-LEV tissue kits for the ability to extract opium poppy DNA from latex, raw and cooked opium, white and brown powder heroin and black tar heroin. Opium poppy DNA was successfully detected in all poppy-derived samples, including heroin. The modified Qiagen stool method with post-extraction purification and a two-stage, dual DNA polymerase amplification procedure resulted in the highest DNA yield and minimized inhibition. This paper describes the initial phase in establishing a DNA-based signature method to characterize heroin.
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