DNA to X-ray: Military has range of tools to ID remains


Ahn Young-joon, pool/ AP A U.N. honor guard brings a casket containing stays believed to be from American servicemen killed throughout the 1950-53 Korean War after showing up from North Korea, at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Friday, July 27, 2018.

Friday, July 27, 2018|3:11 p.m.

NEW YORK– The U.S. armed force stays launched by North Korea on Friday will be sent to a military laboratory in Hawaii, where they’ll go into a system that regularly identifies service members from decades-old disputes.

Recognitions depend on combining numerous lines of proof, and they can take some time: Even after years, some cases remain unresolved.

Canine tags discovered with the remains can assist, as well as scraps of clothes can be traced to the product utilized in uniforms. Teeth can be matched with dental records. Bones can be used to estimate height. And the distinct shape of a clavicle bone can be matched to records of X-rays taken years ago to look for tuberculosis, said Charles Prichard, a spokesperson for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Company.

If a DNA analysis is called for, samples are sent out to a military DNA laboratory at Dover Flying force Base in Delaware.

Tiny samples of bone or teeth, no larger than the quantity of bone in the last joint of the pinkie finger, suffice to yield functional DNA, said Timothy McMahon, who manages the Dover lab as director of Defense Department DNA Operations.

Each sample is sanded to eliminate surface contamination, ground to the consistency of talcum powder, and after that treated with a compound that dissolves the bone and leaves the DNA for analysis. That DNA is then compared with hereditary samples from living people who are related to the missing.

The military has actually been gathering DNA from such family members considering that 1992, and has reached the family members of 92 percent of the 8,100 service members who were listed as missing out on at the end of the Korean War, McMahon stated.

The goal is to discover little bits of DNA in typical between the known loved ones and the unknown remains, suggesting both belong to a particular family tree. One analysis establishes a profile that integrates what’s discovered at 23 spots in the DNA, for instance.

By analyzing different kinds of DNA, lab researchers can look for markers handed downed by generations of ladies, or of guys, or of both sexes. The lab as soon as connected remains to a great-great-great-great-grandniece who at first had no concept she was connected to the missing service member, McMahon stated.

As soon as a link is made, the lab approximates how highly it suggests the remains belong to a specific individual, and send the results back to Hawaii. There, it’s combined with the other lines of proof.

“We’re simply one spoke in a wheel to make the recognition,” McMahon stated. “We all work together.”

Because Oct. 1, the Hawaii laboratory has recognized 25 service members from the Korean War, part of the 119 identifications made total because time period, Prichard stated. For the 12 months prior to that, 42 sets of remains from the Korean War were accounted for, which includes rundown the loved ones in person, from 183 total.

The firm identifies stays from not just the Korean War, however likewise World War II through the first Gulf War in Iraq.

The length of time does it take?

If a clavicle bone can be matched to an X-ray, it may be done in simply 3 days, Prichard said. But in other cases, it can take years. He kept in mind some remains recovered from North Korea from 1990 to 2005 are still waiting for identification.

For Jan Curran, of Gilbert, Arizona, the new remains turned over by North Korea have stirred hope.

Curran has no memory of her father, naval pilot Lt. Charles Fort, who was shot down over Korea and captured in May 1951. He died in captivity, and no remains have been recognized.

Curran, 70, has invested years working to provide him an appropriate burial. She’s participated in ratings of conferences for households of those missing in action in Korea. She was the driving force in the late 1990s in getting numerous of her member of the family– including her sister, an aunt, an uncle and cousins– to join her in giving DNA samples to the military in an effort to recognize her daddy’s remains, ought to they be discovered.

Will their long haul now concern an end?

“We understand it’s a small possibility, but we cannot help but hope,” she said, her voice braking with emotion. “It would be wonderful. It’s too much to hope for.

“It’s remarkable, after all these years, what does it cost? it can still injure not to have him.”

Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska, contributed to this report. The Associated Press Health & & Science Department gets assistance from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is exclusively responsible for all material.

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