Biology in the Laboratory

DNA in the Lab

What was one of the largest forensic DNA investigations in U.S. history?

The identification of the remains of the victims from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City has comprised the largest and most difficult DNA identification project to date. After 1.6 million tons of debris was removed from the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center, only 239 intact bodies (out of 2,795) were found, along with about 20,000 pieces of human remains. In order to match DNA profiles to the bodies, personal items such as razor blades, combs, and toothbrushes were collected from the victims’ homes. When possible, cheek swabs were taken from the victims’ family members for comparison with remains. The identification process was still ongoing as of this writing, with about 1,121 victims still not identified.


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