Home > Forensics > DNA Identification of September 11th Victims

DNA Identification of September 11th Victims

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 30 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Dna Analysis Short Tandem Repeat Str

The September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York left thousands of people dead and a nation faced with the challenge of identifying the many people killed. Given the enormous number of victims, the state of their remains and the lengthy recovery by rescue workers, the effort was an intense one with a high level of pressure for forensic scientists in the United States.

Forensic scientists had the difficulty of identifying victims with samples that were degraded or damaged - requiring more advanced and sophisticated forms of DNA analysis to complete the task in a timely and accurate manner. Relatives and friends of those people in the WTC at the time of the attack had an exhausting and anxious wait. As such, providing information as quickly as possible was a key goal of the response to the attacks.

Value of Technology to Identify Victims

To identify the many victims, however, newer DNA analysis techniques used were extremely helpful to the recovery and identification effort. One technique involved a reduction in the size of a DNA fragment. Traditional DNA analysis methods have used techniques such as short tandem repeat (STR) analysis to analyse fragments of DNA from thirteen locations in DNA that differ among humans. In a fragment, there are base pairs of roughly two hundred to four hundred pairs that constitute a person's genetic fingerprint.

In this relatively newer approach, the concept is somewhat of a modified version of STR analysis that involves smaller STR assays. The DNA fragments are still from those same thirteen areas but they are much smaller and have approximately twenty-five to one hundred and ninety base pairs, although this varies by the location itself. The benefit of the smaller size is that a DNA sample that has suffered from damage or degradation will still have pieces in the thirteen locations that are usable and can be analysed.

Understanding the DNA Analysis Used for September 11 Victims

In this newer type of DNA analysis, a scientist will use smaller fragments of DNA, which then bind to certain sequences of base pairs. These small fragments are also known as DNA primers. The primers let scientists take out some of the DNA fragments and then copy the fragments to provide a sample of a sufficiently large size.

Importance of a Proactive Approach

One challenge related to the September 11 attacks was that the scale of recovery and identification was one that the country simply was not appropriately prepared to handle at that time. With the issue of time-sensitivity and the need for rapid, effective identification of victims, new forms of technology that provide DNA analysis are paramount to the success of forensic scientists. The massive impact has since led to new procedures and a reevaluation of existing policies for laboratory analysis. Improved assessment of victim magnitude, location of the necessary resources, identification of kinship samples and more open lines of communication between the parties involved are all aspects of a response effort that have been examined and improved. It is hoped that such a terrible attack never occurs again but if the country is faced with continued attacks or similar wide-scale disasters, the response is likely to be a stronger, more effective one.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Laverne
    Re: Using DNA and for Immigration Purposes
    Hi..i am a USC. I petition for my stepchildren who are in Jamaica and the petition has been approved. I have since…
    9 August 2019
  • Mhay
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I need some answer...my son died 24 years ago, August 6,1995, he was born July 29,1995, I just have doubts in my mind, as Fabella Hospital in…
    30 July 2019
  • mich
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I would like to know if an old baseball cap would have my father's dna. My dad passed away in 2010.
    30 July 2019
  • Gurl
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My grandmother passed and I want to do a DNA-genealogical test. I did the 23 and me test and it was revealed I am 47percent Native American.…
    26 July 2019
  • fredab
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    hi , my son passed away ,17 years ago in2001 and he had a baby on the way ,she was born in june 2002 , she is 17 years old now ,but we had…
    27 June 2019
  • Richie
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My sister was adopted by my Aunty at a very young age. We met for the first time when I was 35 years old and she was 45 years. We were in…
    25 June 2019
  • spearmannbails
    Re: DNA and Criminology
    no. deoxyribonucleic acid is to be for biology, and biology only.
    24 June 2019
  • Casey
    Re: DNA Testing for Pets
    Hi, I was wondering if there was any chance you could do a DNA test on my dogs ashes, for a long time we suspected he wasnt full Siberian…
    18 June 2019
  • Vee
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Can I text my 4 month old baby ashes, there is pieces of her bone,
    12 June 2019
  • Cami
    Re: DNA Viruses
    Are you able to give me an explanation of how prescribed medicines may cause DNA mutations? As far as I know they can bind the DNA strands…
    11 June 2019