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Molecular Genetics

The OCME Molecular Genetics Laboratory— the first and only such laboratory based in a medical examiner’s office nationwide— helps medical examiners investigate sudden unexpected natural deaths in apparently healthy individuals. The laboratory provides postmortem molecular diagnostic testing (also known as molecular autopsy) to identify and interpret gene changes that may explain sudden deaths, and to alert surviving family members so that loved ones at high risk for inherited disease can be tested and treated.

Our Molecular Genetics Laboratory assists with approximately 500 investigations per year, focusing on conditions that may lead to sudden death in infants, children and young adults, such as cardiac channelopathy, cardiomyopathy, epilepsy, aortopathy, thrombophilia, and sickle cell disease. Equipped with the most advanced technologies and systems, the laboratory can test for more than 300 disease-associated genes. The laboratory also provides genetic counseling, with an in-house certified genetic counselor who interprets test results for families and, when needed, refers surviving loved ones to clinical care partners in New York City.

The Molecular Genetics Laboratory began as part of the Forensic Biology Department in 2003, and today stands as its own unit with approximately 10 professionals. The laboratory was awarded accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) in 2011 and has continuously maintained accreditation since.

The Molecular Genetics Laboratory has been awarded more than $2 million in grants from the National Institute of Justice over the past decade. These funds generously support research and development including the implementation of cutting-edge testing technologies, genetic counseling, advanced interpretation of genetic variants, and testing previously unresolved cases. The laboratory also has published numerous articles in leading journals and continues to be an innovative leader in the postmortem genetics field.