Various methods have been used to improve the identification of skeletal remains by DNA technology.  The most significant advance is the use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify short tandem repeats (STR).  PCR in conjunction with STR typing is the standard DNA identification tool used in paternity testing and forensics DNA testing.  The ability to analyze, by PCR-based methods has allowed the opportunity to identify unknown skeletal remains by a comparative genetic analysis with their presumptive relatives (1-4).  PCR and STR analysis has allowed bones as old as 27 years old to be investigated (5). Our laboratory has successfully used bone as old as 5 years old.  In our experience and according to others the quality of DNA obtained from long bones is higher than that extracted from skulls or ribs (6).

If the body is to be exhumed, we will require about 3-5 inches of long bone such as the fibula or femur.  The bone or bones should be placed in a paper bag and then sealed in a plastic bag.

1.  Alonso A., et al. DNA typing from skeletal remains: evaluation of multiplex and megaplex STR systems on DNA isolated from bone and teeth samples.  Med J 2001 Jun; 42(3):260-6.
2.  Graw M., et al.  DNA typing of human remains found in damp environments.  Forensic Sci Int 2000 Sep 11; 113(1-3):91-5.
3.  Crainic K., et al.  Skeletal remains presumed submerged in water for three years identified using PCR-STR analysis.  J Forensic Sci 2002 Sep; 47(5):1025-7
4.  Bramanti B., et al.  STR allelic frequencies in a German skeleton collection.  Anthropol Anz 2000 Mar; 58(1):45-9.
5. Tahir MA, et al.  DNA typing of samples for polymarker, DQA1, and nine STR loci from a human body exhumed after 27 years.  J Forensic Sci. 2000 Jul; 45(4):902-7.
6. Frank WE., et al.  A time course study on STR profiles derived from human bone, muscle, and bone marrow.  J Forensic Sci. 1999 Jul; 44(4):778-82.

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