UNTHSC begins DNA analysis on remains from Florida reform school

January 28, 2014

Arthur Eisenberg, PhD

Scientists at UNT Health Science Center have begun DNA testing and analysis on human remains excavated in Florida on the grounds of a former reform school.

Arthur Eisenberg, PhD, who co-directs the UNT Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI), is leading efforts to identify the remains through DNA testing. The Center has received five samples of unidentified human remains from a team of University of South Florida anthropologists that is excavating the now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.

USF officials have announced that they have excavated 55 graves, which are 24 more than official records indicate should be there.

The UNT Health Science Center team is attempting to extract DNA from remains that are decades old. If successful, scientists will compare it to DNA reference samples that were provided by family members and collected by law enforcement personnel in Florida and elsewhere. UNTHSC has received six reference samples so far.

"Our mission is to help solve missing person cases through DNA identifications and bring answers to families who have spent years wondering about the fate of their loved ones," Dr. Eisenberg said.

The work in Florida and Fort Worth is funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Through a grant from the NIJ, UNT Health Science Center also maintains the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a national clearinghouse for missing person cases, unidentified remains, unidentified living individuals and unclaimed bodies.

Since 2003, the Health Science Center has processed approximately 5,200 human remains, making more than 1,100 DNA associations that led to identifications. In addition, the Center has analyzed more than 14,400 family reference samples, representing more than 8,000 missing person cases.

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