Scientists at two U.S. laboratories,which began in 1972,identify remains brought into their DNA laboratories.
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command lab in Hawaii tests older,or skeletal,remains. It uses mitochondrial-DNA tests,or mtDNA tests,to identify DNA codes passed down by the mother. Hawaii's Central Identification Laboratory is the largest in the world with 23 anthropologists,four archeologists and three odontologists,or forensic dentists.
The second lab,the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology,in Rockville,Md.,uses nuclear technology to test the remains of those who have died more recently.
Troy Kitch,spokesman at Hawaii's Central Identification Lab,said mtDNA tests,historical evidence,witness interviews,dental reports and material evidence must all point to the same person before scientists will identify remains.
“The most important thing is for the families of these people we want to make sure we get it right,” Kitch said.
The lab works on about 20 cases each day.
“We have limited table space,” Kitch said. “I should point out that a case does not equal one person.”
Sometimes bones are found in mass graves,or the lab has only a single bone to test.
American scientists in both labs perform “double blind studies.” Scientists who get the materials in the field don't share information with the lab scientists to avoid scientific assumptions during testing.
Anyone who is related to a missing soldier or who could help find relatives of missing soldiers could help scientists identify remains. The first step is to go online to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and register.