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To Test the Samples or Not

Genetic testing could be used to examine remains uncovered at a mother-and-baby home in Ireland, a University College Dublin professor says in a letter appearing in the Irish Times.

Remains belonging to children between the ages of 35 fetal weeks to three years have been found at the site of a former institution for unmarried mothers in County Galway, the paper notes in a previous article. While it adds that estimates vary, the Irish Times says that as many as 800 fetuses and children may have been buried there.

But René Gapert, a forensic anthropologist, tells it that separating the different skeletons and testing their DNA may not be possible. The paper adds that concerns over the ability to collect samples from putative family members and its cost have also been raised.

However, in a letter to the paper, University College Dublin's David MacHugh writes that he is "perplexed by the hesitancy in applying modern forensic genomics" to samples from the Tuam mother-and-baby home. He adds that recent advances from the field of ancient genomics could be applied and that as the Tuam samples are about 50 years old, they should not present the same issues as ancient samples from which genetic data has been gleaned.

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