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DNA Testing Used in Bosnia

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It’s a morbid concept, but DNA testing has never been more invaluable than when helping to identify the victims of war or disaster.

DNA Testing and the Military

For some, especially during times of war, DNA testing can be crucial. People with high risk jobs and those in the forces are more likely to think about banking their DNA – testing and banking your own DNA can provide important information, including identifying remains or helping cases of amnesia. The US military, for example, has compulsory DNA testing and banks DNA from all service members.

DNA Testing in Srebrenica

In 2001 scientists used DNA testing to identify victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Improved technology in DNA testing means there has been an important breakthrough in helping to identify bodies exhumed from mass graves. The DNA testing and software developed in Bosnia were also used to help identify victims from the September 11 World Trade Centre attacks in New York.

Living Relatives

Scientists performed DNA tests on living relatives to help identify the bodies of the victims. Thousands of blood samples and bone samples were taken for DNA testing to help find results so that relatives could finally receive the remains of their loved ones.

DNA Testing and Techniques

DNA testing techniques developed over the past two decades have been used before to casualties of aircraft crashes, but Bosnia and the World Trade Centre were the first incidents of this science being used on such a large scale. The BBC reported that there are an estimated 40,000 people lying in mass graves in the former Yugoslavia.

World Trade Centre

DNA testing procedures used to identify victims of the World Trade Centre were more straightforward than in Bosnia, although no less tragic. The war graves in Bosnia were up to nine years old and in some cases whole families were wiped out with no surviving relatives. In New York, DNA samples could be taken for DNA testing from the toothbrushes of those that died rather than surviving relatives.

DNA Testing and Banking

Incidents of this magnitude are thankfully rare in life, but many people still opt for DNA testing so they can log their DNA in a DNA bank. Reasons include:

  • To compare your DNA with other DNA profiles in your family, for instance for estate protection;
  • If you work in a high risk environment, some companies benefit from having an employee’s DNA banked in case it is required for identification purposes after an incident.

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