17 years since 9/11, more victims are identified through advanced DNA technology

More than 1,100 victims, however, still remain unnamed.

Kristen Johanson
September 10, 2018 - 9:55 pm
A member of FDNY salutes after placing a flower at the 9/11 Memorial during a ceremony commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, in New York, the United States, Feb. 26, 2016.

Xinhua/Wang Lei


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Seventeen years have passed since 9/11. 

Over the last two decades, scientists have made significant strides in DNA technology that have since helped identify victims in the terror attacks. 

So far, 60 percent of the World Trade Center victims have been identified, and new advancements may pave the way to identify more.

More than 1,100 victims remain unnamed and unclaimed inside a repository at the World Trade Center Memorial. The New York medical examiner's office continues to test bones and teeth, using a method similar to how anthropologists look at ancient DNA.

"Taking liquid nitrogen to basically freeze-dry them and then pulverizing it into a powder form that you can then re-suspend in a buffer, to then extract DNA out of the sample," explained University of Pennsylvania anthropology professor Theodore Schurr of the process.

The sample is then tested against either someone's own sample, like hair from a brush, or from relatives.

"You can try to find maternal relatives by studying bits of the mitochondrial DNA," he added.

Schurr said the new genetic advancements can help bring some peace to loved ones of victims.

"If DNA methods like this can help bring some closure to the whole process, then hopefully we will be allowed to make these types of reconnections to persons lost in this tragedy and their families."