The M-48, a large, rectangular machine that resembles a doughnut box with a see-through pane, is one of Massachusetts’ most important crime-fighting tools, says the Boston Globe. The M-48 delicately extracts DNA. “It’s as if DNA were in an egg yolk,” said Kristen Sullivan of the Massachusetts State Police crime lab. “And this machine breaks open the yolk to release it.”
The M-48 does in an hour what it would take dozens of technicians to do in weeks. Soon, another M-48 will be operational, along with automated stations that will relieve humans of the tedious and time-consuming jobs of DNA extraction, separation, and amplification. Roundly criticized for inefficiency and mishandling of DNA and other evidence, some of it crucial to apprehending or prosecuting dangerous felons, the crime lab has managed to slash its backlog and turnaround time dramatically, Gov. Deval Patrick said yesterday. Processing a DNA case required 91 days in late 2006. By the beginning of this year, the average time was 60 days. In the last three months of 2006, 112 cases were completed. That figure soared to 330 in the first three months of 2008.