DNA lab helps identify more than 550 victims

In the past few years, law enforcement agencies have ramped up efforts to identify victims from unsolved “cold” cases, and the Center for Human Identification at the UNT Health Science Center was almost overwhelmed with the number of cases that flooded its office.  Since 2003, more than 2,700 samples of human remains have been analyzed by the Health Science Center’s forensic experts, and the two-year backlog has been reduced by 95 percent.  Of the 550 samples that resulted in associations, 77 were “cold hits” meaning that there was no previous association between the victim and the reference sample.

Technology improvements have played a large part in the ability of the renowned lab to match remains to reference samples provided by family members whose loved one is missing.  In some cases, evidence may have been sitting in a medical examiner’s evidence closet waiting to be analyzed with new technological advances, or the victim’s family may not know about the opportunity to provide a reference sample.

With the addition of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) at the FBI and state DNA databases, the Center for Human Identification is able to enter DNA profiles to facilitate identification with other laboratories. In fact, the UNT Health Science Center enters 50-60 percent of the DNA profiles in the CODIS National Missing Person DNA Database (NMPDD).  When a DNA profile matches one already loaded into the database, a case can be solved that initially seemed unrelated to the evidence. In 2010, the Center for Human Identification has helped close 83 cases, 17 of which were “cold hits.”

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