Bringing closure to families
A new NGS workflow allows identification of missing persons from the most difficult samples.
All over the world, there are unfortunate cases of relatives, friends and colleagues who go missing. Being able to identify victims through DNA analyses can provide answers to those who are missing loved ones and this is the basis behind icmp.
Every day of waiting is a day of uncertainty for those who are missing loved ones. The ICMP therefore sought to improve its technology. In October 2017 it opened a brand new DNA identification laboratory in The Hague that uses the GeneReader NGS System from QIAGEN. Keith Elliott, associate director strategic marketing HID at QIAGEN, says: “Next-generation sequencing is much more suitable for highly degraded samples, and GeneReader offers unique capabilities for exactly that kind of analysis.”
QIAGEN’s GeneReader NGS System covers all steps of the laboratory workflow, from sample extraction to the final DNA analysis. Both partners have developed a dedicated testing panel running on the system specifically designed for applications in human identification. Dr. Thomas Parsons says: “With this approach we would be able to make an identification with even a single relative as far distant as first cousin. And this is very much a game changer in some complex disaster victim identification cases or other post-conflict events where it is simply not possible to achieve so many reference samples in order to make the identifications.”
First study results support this assumption. While previous technologies required a reference sample from a parent, a child or a sibling to verify DNA identities, now a 1st or potentially even a 2nd degree cousin relationship would do. Dr. Parsons calls this a “paradigm shift.” And yet another benefit strikes the experts: With the new test method even the smallest DNA fragments can be analyzed, allowing to finally unveil the identity behind old samples from World War II or the armed conflict in Bosnia in the 1990s.
The work of the ICMP in collaboration with QIAGEN can give certainty and help to hold those who are responsible for political crimes accountable. But most of all, it gives all the relatives of missing people the chance to leave the past behind and carry on with their lives – or as Ingrid says: “For me it meant everything I can say. Because I could leave the thoughts and feelings in my head. And when I heard the fact ‘here they are’ and yes, I was even thankful for that. So it’s a very important job they are doing here at the ICMP.”