Genetics experts join together to support efforts to identify remaining hurricane Katrina victims

A multi-institution team of experts, coordinated by geneticists from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is supporting efforts to identify more than 70 bodies still unidentified in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"I'm very proud of how the genetics community has joined together in this time of continuing need. It is inspiring to see how these professionals are giving of their time and expertise to help families through the difficult process of finding the loved ones that Katrina so cruelly took away," said NHGRI Scientific Director Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D.

When Katrina struck on August 29 and unleashed devastating floods, it claimed more than 1,200 lives in Louisiana and Mississippi. Many of the victims already have been identified and their remains claimed by their families. However, more than 70 bodies remain unidentified, including bodies recovered shortly after the floodwaters receded and bodies recently recovered as debris from the hurricane has been removed from the hardest hit areas of New Orleans.

Using experience gained in DNA analysis of human remains after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, epidemiologists, clinical geneticists and genetic counselors are supporting Louisiana state officials in the task of collecting data on family relationships, which is a key step in the complex process of DNA testing being used to match recovered remains to the list of more than 1,100 people still missing in Katrina's wake.

Joan Bailey-Wilson, Ph.D., co-chief of the NHGRI's Inherited Disease Research Branch, has been coordinating efforts of more than 70 genetics professionals who have offered to help the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory in its management of the identification process and collection of DNA (cheek swab) samples from family members of the missing. These professionals come from more than 30 U.S. medical institutions and private practices ac

Contact: Rebecca Kolberg
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

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