Scientists believe new DNA technology could identify Tuam babies

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The remains of the Tuam babies could be identified using new DNA testing techniques according to leading scientists.

The remains of hundreds of babies were discovered at the former children’s home in Co Galway.
Irish scientists believe new DNA technology could identify Tuam babies

It had previously been thought that identifying the victims would be nearly impossible, given that they had been buried in an underground chamber adjacent to an unused septic tank and the remains are “comingled”.

However, scientists from The University College Dublin and Trinity College have teamed up and believe that modern DNA practices could identify the bodies.

The discovery of the mass grave sent shockwaves through the country in March 2017.

Historian Catherine Corless published research that revealed death certificates for 796 children at the Tuam home from 1925 to 1961, with no indication as to where they had been buried.

An Expert Technical Group initially said that the identification of the victims would be difficult because of the poor quality DNA.

However, Dr Stephen Donoghue of UCD claims that advances in genomic technology “should allow for the identification of the remains at Tuam”.

Dr Donoghue explained: “There were a number of problems identified by the Expert Technical Group report…

including the quality of the DNA and the comingling of skeletal remains and the cost associated with carrying out the DNA analysis.

“We felt that the report was viewed through the prism of a technology that is around 20 years old, called short tandem repeat DNA profiling.”

He revealed that new DNA technology would allow the victims to be identified.

“They essentially allow for whole genome analysis of poor quality DNA and so really we’re saying that the remains should be identifiable at Tuam.”

The team of scientists at UCD and Trinity have submitted a report to Galway County Council detailing their study.

Disagreeing with the “pessimistic and guarded tone” from the ETG report, the UCD/Trinity team think that a small sample taken from the petrous part of the base of the skull would yield good-quality DNA.

Written by Andrew Moore