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DNA Test with Ashes or Human Remains

Updated: Jun 30

The notion that DNA testing cannot be performed on a cremated individual is widespread due to tangible reasons. Cremation is seen as a process that completely destroys the remains of the deceased, suggesting that no genetic material is available for further analysis.

However, thanks to technological advances, it is now possible to conduct DNA tests using samples of ashes or human remains, opening new possibilities for families seeking to confirm a biological relationship with a deceased relative.

DNA test with remains sample

If you are looking to determine the presence of DNA in an ash sample, genetic analysis on cremated remains can assist you in this process.

Today, laboratories specialize in extracting DNA from cremated remains and human ashes, acknowledging the complexities associated with the cremation process. With increasingly conclusive results, laboratories can confirm or exclude the presence of DNA in the ash sample and, potentially, provide a genetic profile.

Cremation :

Cremation involves burning the remains of a deceased person. When a body is placed in a cremator and subjected to high temperatures, typically between 1400°C and 1800°C, the process reduces the body to fragments and ashes, which are then collected and given to the family of the deceased.

After cremation, the ashes can be kept in a funeral urn, scattered in a meaningful place, or used in other rituals. However, to ensure the identity and authenticity of the ashes, DNA tests are often performed.

While cremation is a widely accepted method, there are situations where DNA tests on ashes or human remains are necessary. These tests are crucial to ensure the accuracy of ash identification and to avoid any confusion or errors in the process.

Which type of sample is preferred?

For a test with cremated remains, the required sample must consist of bones and teeth of the deceased. Indeed, the extreme temperatures inside the crematorium leave only bones and teeth viable after the process.

Although these components are altered by the high heat, they can still contain DNA for genetic analysis.

The ashes resulting from cremation, which consist of dry calcium phosphates and some minor minerals, do not contain enough DNA and are not suitable for DNA tests.

  • In a tooth, DNA is generally contained in the cells of the dental pulp. The dental pulp is located in the center of the tooth and contains living cells. This is where DNA can be extracted for genetic tests. Molars, premolars, or canines are preferred.

  • In a bone, DNA is present in the cells of the bone tissue at the center of the bone. Extracting DNA from a bone can be more challenging due to its density. Long bones such as the femur and humerus are usually preferred. Cranial bones, like the skull and mandible, can also be used as they may contain useful DNA.

How to perform the DNA test?

In the context of DNA tests, the selection of an appropriate genetic analysis depends on various factors, including available participants and the nature of the relationship you are seeking to confirm.

Indeed, DNA tests involve a comparative analysis between samples taken from a minimum of two participants. The goal is to determine the degree of genetic relatedness and establish biological links between individuals.

While cremated remains can serve as a source of DNA, the choice of genetic analysis is crucial. Some genetic research remains impossible to conduct to this day. It is advisable to research the available DNA tests.

Samples of cremated remains or ashes cannot be used for genealogical research.

How to Provide Consent for These Samples?

To ensure compliance with legal and ethical requirements, consent for the DNA test must be provided by a close relative or the legally authorized representative of the deceased.

Typically, laboratories request certain documents from the person requesting the test to verify the explicit consent of the family to use the samples of the deceased.

The necessary documents include:

  1. The death certificate of the deceased.

  2. A valid identification document of the participant providing consent: a valid identification document of a legal representative is required to verify their relationship with the deceased.

If this person does not appear directly on the death certificate, you can provide other official documents that prove the legal relationship, such as the birth certificate of the participant providing consent.

How to Send Cremated Remains for a DNA Test?

Cremated ashes, being devoid of any organic material, pose no health hazard. To ensure proper handling of the samples, it is essential not to use plastic boxes or tubes for storage or shipment.

We strongly recommend the use of paper or cardboard material, as it provides a suitable and safe option. Not only does this choice ensure the preservation of the samples, but it also contributes to a lighter package, reducing shipping costs when sending to the laboratory.

The cremated remains of an adult male should be approximately 2500 to 3000 grams, while those of an adult female should be around 1800 to 2000 grams.

It is important to note that in the case of success or failure of the test with this type of sample, the test cost is non-refundable, as the analysis has been conducted.


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