While hair shafts are a common evidence type in forensic cases, they are often excluded from DNA analysis due to their limited DNA quantity and quality. Mitochondrial (mt) DNA sequencing is the method of choice when working with rootless hair shaft fragments due to the elevated copy number of mtDNA and the highly degraded nature of nuclear (n) DNA. Using massively parallel sequencing (MPS) of the mitochondrial (mito) genome, we studied the impact of hair age (time since collection) and physical characteristics (hair diameter, medullary structure, and length of hair tested) on mtDNA recovery and MPS data quality. Hair shaft cuttings of 1 and 5 mm from hairs less than five years to 46 years of age from 60 donors were characterized microscopically. Mitogenome sequences were generated using the Promega PowerSeqTM Whole Mito System prototype kit and the Illumina MiSeq instrument. Reportable mitogenome sequences were obtained from all hairs up to 27 years of age (37 donors), with at least 98% of the mitogenome reported for more than 94% of the 74 hair samples analyzed; the minimum reported sequence was 88%. Furthermore, data from the 1 and 5 mm replicates gave concordant haplotypes. As expected, mtDNA yield decreased, mtDNA degradation increased, and mitogenome MPS data quality declined as the age of the hair increased. Hair diameter and medullary structure had minimal impact on yield and data quality. Our findings support that MPS is a robust and reliable method for routinely generating mitogenome sequences from 1 and 5 mm hair shaft samples up to 27 years of age, which is of interest to the forensic community, biological anthropologists, and medical geneticists.
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