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DNA Typing Identified One-Third of World Trade Center Victims; Panel Urges More Sensitive Technologies

NEW YORK, Nov. 17 (GenomeWeb News) - DNA-based efforts identified around a third of the individuals reported missing after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, a panel reported today.

 

Writing in this week's issue of Science, the Kinship and Data Analysis Panel, reported that they used DNA results to identify 850 of the 2,749 people reported missing in the days following the terrorist attacks. The panel and New York City's chief medical examiner, which convened it, have determined no further identifications are possible at this time with the collected samples.

 

The article outlined the process used to identify victims as well as recommendations on improving DNA identification in the event of future attacks or mass disasters.

 

While most victims were identified using standard forensic science methods, compromised DNA samples required new approaches, the panel said. Over 20,000 tissue fragments were collected from the site, catalogued and analyzed, and many of these samples contained inorganic building material or were exposed to temperatures exceeding 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

The panel created forms and kits to collect victims' reference DNA, established a way to transfer data between the different agencies, and interconnected databases and analytical tools between researchers.

 

KADAP recommended more research to develop more sensitive forensic DNA typing systems, improving software to integrate analytical and database functions, and to test identification procedures as they are being developed.

 

The NIJ, which organized and funded KADAP, plans to publish its own report on lessons learned to assist with future mass-casualty DNA investigations.

 

Authorities have used DNA typing to identify victims of last year's tsunami in South Asia and of this year's Hurricane Katrina.

 

The panel consisted of experts in forensics, bioinformatics, molecular and medical genetics, and statistical and population genetics drawn from the National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Justice, and other institutions. Two senior investigators from the National Human Genome Research Institute were also on the panel.

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