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New DNA Technology To Be Used To Identify Sept. 11 Victims

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The Office of the New York City Chief Medical Examiner is using a new DNA system to help to identify remains of more than 1,100 unidentified victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Next Generation Sequencing can work on remains that were too degraded to be identified with conventional DNA techniques. The system was already being used by the Department of Defense.

Dr. Timothy McMahon, the director of the department’s DNA operations for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, said the system won’t identify every sample, but it will give hope.

“Even if it helps 20% of those, that’s 20% more people who are returned to their loved ones,” McMahon said.

McMahon said he is optimistic the system can identify more of the missing. “It has a high chance of solving a good number of those, I’m hesitant to put what percentage of those but right now you’re sitting at a number of 1200 to 1500 potentially that haven’t had any chance of going forward,” McMahon said. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner announced it identified two new victims on Tuesday.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.