How DNA and other methods are used in identifying deceased US troops
After an initial assessment at an air base in South Korea, the remains will be flown to a US military laboratory in Hawaii for DNA analysis for what could be a lengthy and challenging process of identifying the remains and returning them to families.
Scientists at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lab (DPAA) use forensic anthropology, forensic dentistry, DNA and other scientific methods.
A genealogist who works on such cases looks at the soldiers’ family tree and ancestries for possible DNA samples. During the process, forensic anthropologists also examine the human remains and material evidence, such as military uniforms, belongings and identification tags.
After that, the skeletal remains are examined to determine features such as sex, race, stature and age at death.
99% of troops don’t have DNA on file
The next part includes DNA evidence and dental impressions to try to link them to missing military personnel.
“We have a genealogist who works cases just like that, where they go in and look at the family tree where their ancestries are so that we can possibly get a DNA sample that way,” said said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shelia Cooper of the DPAA.
For years, the military has encouraged family members of Korean War soldiers to donate DNA that can be potentially used to identify their relatives’ remains. But that can be challenging when some don’t have biological family available to provide DNA samples.
Dental records are also critical, because if the person had a dental exam that contained X-rays, or any records and treatment, those can provide clues in the identification process.
Teeth and bones are crucial
Teeth and bones may also have some of the person’s mitochondrial DNA, when all other soft tissue could have degraded.
But there’s a catch.
All the reports go through a peer review process with external, independent experts, according to the agency.
Since the DNA technology started in the 1990s, the process of identifying remains has focused more on pulling mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from skeletal material.
CNN’s Alexandra Field, Jamie Tarabay, Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and James Griffith contributed to this report.
News credit : Cnn