Projects That Have Used DNA Testing to Identify Humans Both Living and Deceased

Forensic DNA samples are an intricate part of a crime lab investigation. DNA samples have many uses from sampling human, animal, plant DNA and more.

911 victims

The US government was not equipped to handle so many samples. At the time of the 911 disaster DNA analysis could not handle over 500 casualties for identification purposes. As a result, a special panel of experts from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations had to be set up to develop strategies to collect the DNA samples at the site, to monitor the findings, identify the victims and expedite the findings to various crime labs and databases across the Nation.

New strategies were developed to handle a disaster of this magnitude. However, the project ended in 2005 because many of the samples were just too small for analysis. Only 1585, out of the 2792 estimated victims, had been identified. By 2007, newer technology was on the market. Bode Technology Group developed a newer DNA analysis procedure that required smaller samples. Because of this new DNA technology more remains have been identified.

The DNA Shoah Project

The DNA Shoah Project identifies Holocaust victims who were buried anonymously throughout Europe and reunites survivors of the Holocaust with their remaining families. During the Second World War and the reign of the third Reich, Nazi Germany, family were scattered all over, because of the danger involved these families could not communicate with each other and thus many families were left not knowing if their relatives had survived or not.

Children who Disappeared in Argentina

In the 1970's, many people who were kidnapped or murdered, were known as “the disappeared”, many of these these people were pregnant women or women with new born babies. When they disappeared offspring of these women were spared. They were raised by the kidnappers. DNA specialists are helping the grandparents to find these missing children.

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

The remains of Michael Blassie, U.S. Air Force lieutenant who was buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns, otherwise known as the Tomb of the Unknown soldiers, at Arlington National Cemetery was identified by DNA analysis in 1998, read full story here:

One of the greatest mysteries of all times: What happened to the son of Louis IV and Marie Antoinette

For 205 years historians have argued over the whereabouts of the remains of the son of Louis IV and Marie Antoinette. It was long hypothesized that child died in prison while others felt he somehow escaped the consequences of the French Revolution. The heart of the deceased believed to be Louis-Charles de France, was analyzed and compared to the descendents of the French royal family. It was confirmed that this child who died in a french prison was the french heir and son of Louis IV and Marie Antoinette .

The last Imperial Czar of Russia, Nicholas Romanov II

The remains of Czar Nicholas Romanov II was identified through DNA testing for the full story click here:

DNA databanks

DNA databanks are currently set up for the declining grizzly bear population, poached animals, and animals on the endangered species populations.

Future uses for DNA identification

Peruvian Ice Maiden

This well preserved body was that of a 12-14 year old girl. If DNA testing is successful, the possibilities open up to that fact that her genetic makeup could trace her lineage up to modern day descendents.

African Lemba Tribesmen

African Lemba Tribesmen follow the calling of the ram's horn; the Hebrew shofar. They have claimed for centuries that they are the descendents of Abraham and the Jewish people. DNA testing to validate this claim is currently underway and will also open up new avenues for linking the genetic commonalities between different races on this earth.

Migration patterns

Through mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes analysis, researchers can trace the migration patterns of cultures, or people who have relocated all over the world.


By using DNA techniques, researchers have found that some of the wine cultivators in France to day, are close relatives while they probably did not know their own genealogy. The findings conclude that the wine growers in

northeastern France who produce Chardonnay, the "king of whites," and growers of red red wines such as Pinot and Gamay noir, are close relatives.

Feline Forensics

Crime scenes do not only investigate human DNA, it will investigate DNA from other animals as well. Case in point, when a women was murdered in Prince Edward Island, Canada, her estranged husband was implicated in the crime. Part of the evidence was based on a white cat hair found in a jacket at the crime scene. The cat hair belonged to the estranged husband's parent's cat, snowball. See M. Menotti-Raymond et al., "Pet cat hair implicates murder suspect," Nature, 386, 774, 1997.

Plant DNA

Plant DNA found on a truck that was implicated in a murder linked the suspect, the truck, and the damaged tree (Palo Verde trees have a unique DNA pattern) and led to a conviction. Source: PBS TV series, “"Scientific American Frontiers." [WNED-TV (PBS - Buffalo, N.Y.)]

Innovative ways of using DNA testing

Sports collectors will concur that sometimes it is hard to authenticate sports memorabilia or even objects of art. There are many scams passing off counterfeits as the real thing. In the future, DNA technology will have the ability to implant a DNA sample within the memorabilia and artifacts. In the future, the DNA strand of the athlete or artist in question who had previously owned or worked on the memorabilia or produced a work of art could be authenticated. The people responsible for authenticating the items will simply use a special laser to decode the DNA strand and at anytime in the future, the buyer, auction house, or museum curator can be completely satisfied that they have the real thing.

Right now the DNA strand has been used in Super Bowl XXXIV Footballs and 2000 Summer Olympic Souvenirs, not necessarily linked to a specific athlete but linked to the event itself (they used the DNA of unnamed athletes present at the world event to authenticate that the footballs and memorabilia really were connected to the event.


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