DNA rewriting our memory: Recovering missing people through their genetic profile


Continuous advances in DNA analysis for forensic purposes have set milestones in the search for genetic identity in criminal cases, disasters, and disappearances. Technological advances in the study of our genome now allow us to infer whose remains have been found, for example, at a mass grave or an anonymous tomb, and to extrapolate where they lived, their physical appearance, or their family origin. Thanks to a series of fixed variations between individuals, the analysis of DNA of forensic interest allows the identification of individuals via their genetic profile. This identification can be carried out by comparing the profile of the human remains with those of known profiles or by their compatibility with DNA inherited by their relatives.


missing persons; genetic profile; methylation profile; phenotypic profile; biogeographic profile

Full Text:



Abbott, A. (2018). European scientists seek ‘epigenetic clock’ to determine age of refugees. Nature, 561(7721), 15. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06121-w 

Bär, W., Brinkmann, B., Budowle, B., Carracedo, A., Gill, P., Lincoln, P., … Olaisen, B. (1997). DNA recommendations. Further report of the DNA Commission of the ISFH regarding the use of short tandem repeat systems. International Society for Forensic Haemogenetics, 110(4), 175–176. 

Bodner, M., Bastisch, I., Butler, J. M., Fimmers, R., Gill, P., Gusmão, L., … Parson, W. (2016). Recommendations of the DNA Commission of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) on quality control of autosomal Short Tandem Repeat allele frequency databasing (STRidER). Forensic Scientific International: Genetics, 24, 97–102. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2016.06.008 

Carracedo, A., Bär, W., Lincoln, P., Mayr, W., Morling, N., Olaisen, B., … Wilson, M. (2000). DNA commission of the International Society for Forensic Genetics: Guidelines for mitochondrial DNA typing. Forensic Scientific International, 110(2), 79–85. 

Dannemann, M., & Kelso, J. (2017). The contribution of Neanderthals to phenotypic variation in modern humans. American Journal of Human Genetics, 101(4), 578–589. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2017.09.010 

Freire-Aradas, A., Phillips, C., Mosquera-Miguel, A., Girón-Santamaría, L., Gómez-Tato, A., Casares de Cal, M., … Lareu, M. V. (2016). Development of a methylation marker set for forensic age estimation using analysis of public methylation data and the Agena Bioscience EpiTYPER system. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 24, 65–74. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2016.06.005 

Green, R. E., Krause, J., Briggs, A. W., Maricic, T., Stenzel, U., Kircher, M., … Pääbo, S. (2010). A draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome. Science, 328(5979), 710–722. doi: 10.1126/science.1188021 

Gill, P. (2001). An assessment of the utility of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for forensic purposes. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 114(4–5), 204210. 

Ley orgánica 10/2007, de 8 de octubre, reguladora de la base de datos policial sobre identificadores obtenidos a partir del ADN. (2007). Retrieved from 

Lipphardt, V., Toom, V., Mupepele, A.-C., & Lemke, T. (2017). Open letter on critical approaches to forensic DNA phenotyping and biogeographical ancestry. Retrieved on 10 December 2018 from http://www.fb03. 

Mundorff, A. Z., Bartelink, E. J., & Mar-Cash, E. (2009). DNA preservation in skeletal elements from the World Trade Center disaster: Recommendations for mass fatality management. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 54(4), 739–745. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2009.01045.x 

Noonan, J. P., Coop, G., Kudaravalli, S., Smith, D., Krause, J., Alessi, J., … Rubin, E. M. (2006). Sequencing and analysis of Neanderthal genomic DNA. Science, 314(5802), 1113–1118. doi: 10.1126/science.1131412 

Parson, W., Ballard, D., Budowle, B., Butler, J. M., Gettings, K. B., Gill, P., … Phillips, C. (2016). Massively parallel sequencing of forensic STRs: Considerations of the DNA commission of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) on minimal nomenclature requirements. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 22, 54–63. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2016.01.009 

Parsons, T. J., Huel, R. M. L., Bajunović, Z., & Rizvić, A. (2019). Large scale DNA identification: The ICMP experience. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 38, 236–244. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2018.11.008 

Prinz, M., Carracedo, A., Mayr, W. R., Morling, N., Parsons T. J., Sajantila A., … Schneider P. M. (2007). DNA Commission of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG): Recommendations regarding the role of forensic genetics for disaster victim identification (DVI). Forensic Science International: Genetics, 1(1), 3–12. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2006.10.003 

Samuel, G., & Prainsack, B. (2019). Forensic DNA phenotyping in Europe: Views «on the ground» from those who have a professional stake in the technology. New Genetics and Society, 38(2), 119–141. doi: 10.1080/14636778.2018.1549984 

Venter, J. C., Adams, M. D., Myers, E. W., Li, P. W., Mural, R. J., Sutton, G. G., … Zhu, X. (2001). The sequence of the human genome. Science, 291(5507), 1304–1351. doi: 10.1126/science.1058040 

Vidaki, A., & Kayser, M. (2017). From forensic epigenetics to forensic epigenomics: Broadening DNA investigative intelligence. Genome Biology, 18(1), 238. doi: 10.1186/s13059-017-1373-1 

Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License