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ASU Professor Receives National Institute of Justice Grant

Image associated with the ASU Professor Receives National Institute of Justice Grant news item

Author: Hazel Scott

Release Date: Oct 26, 2017

Forensic science professor Gulnaz Javan has received a grant for the study of thanatomicrobiome.

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Alabama State University’s nationally acclaimed expert on forensic science, Dr. Gulnaz Javan and microbiome expert and founder of the Earth Microbiome Project, Dr. Jack Gilbert (at the University of Chicago), have received a two-year, $532,286 grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to study the thanatomicrobiome.

The research project will start at the first of the year - Jan. 1, 2018 - and Javan said it is a big deal in advancing the University into international forensic research. “This significant grant is the first NIJ grant to be secured by the Forensic Science Program at ASU,” Javan said.

“These groundbreaking studies endeavor to support current efforts by investigators around the world to establish a catalog for the Human Postmortem Microbiome Project (HPMP),” Javan said. HPMP is an emerging research topic relating to microbial diversity residing in and/or moving on the surface of decomposing remains (thanatomicrobiome and epinecrotic).

She said that she will work in collaboration with ASU researcher Sheree Finley and European researcher - Dr. Sari Tuomisto - at Tampere University in Finland as they attempt to  determine how "microbiome" composition and associated metabolism correlate with the cause of death in 100 cadavers. The researchers will then build a model that can be used by criminal investigators and forensic/crime lab experts to predict cause of death based on microbial and metabolic signatures associated with liver and brain tissues.

ASU'S JAVAN THANATOS (DEATH) LABORATORY

ASU’s Javan Thanatos Lab is the only research group in the United States that has access to national and international cadavers from criminal cases (homicide, overdose, suicide). The study will acquire tissues from cadavers through collaborations with national morgues in Montgomery, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., and an international morgue in Tampere, Finland, which is the largest morgue in Finland. The Lab also has developed a new scientific concept to describe the role of putrefactive bacteria, Clostridium, called the Postmortem Clostridium Effect (PCE).“I am very excited to be a part of this NIJ grant,” Finley said. “Several unanswered forensic questions will be elucidated by this thanatomicrobiome and metabolome research.” Finley  added.

DEFINITION - THANATOMICROBIOME

The human thanatomicrobiome is an original term launched by Javan in 2014. The thanatomicrobiome (Thanatos=Greek for death) is characterized by a diverse assortment of microbes located in internal sites (brain, liver, reproductive organs, etc.) collected from criminal casework.

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