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Medical News & Perspectives
September 11, 2002

Out of Tragedy, Identification Innovation

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JAMA. 2002;288(10):1221-1223. doi:10.1001/jama.288.10.1221-JMN0911-2-1

Washington—While the rest of the country began to recover from the September 11 attacks, the offices of the New York City Medical Examiner and the New York State Police faced an overwhelming task. They needed to identify some 3000 people lost in the still-burning wreckage.

Considering the intense heat and destruction of the disaster, forensic specialists knew that they would have to rely on DNA evidence in many, if not most, cases. That instinct proved correct. By July, 640 of 1207 known victims had been identified by DNA alone. Genetic information had helped in many of the other identifications. But this work had pushed off-the-shelf DNA fingerprinting technology to its limit. Finishing the massive project would take an infusion of innovation—an effort now well under way.

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