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New DNA Test Helps to Identify Hair, Eye Color of Long-Dead People

Jan 14, 2013 07:53 AM EST

A new system can help in identifying some features of unknown people who died long ago, claims a new study.

Researchers from Poland and the Netherlands have developed a new DNA analysis system called HIrisPlex that detects small variations in the DNA code of human remains that are up to 800 years old.

This helps in determining the hair and eye color of unknown individuals whose bodies have completely degraded over time.

The system can be used in bones and teeth, as ancient DNA survives on such hard tissues and can be recovered.

The research team was able to determine the eye and hair color of some dead people by analyzing their genetic code.

For example, researchers tested the DNA samples of a tooth belonging to Poland's General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who died in a plane crash in 1943. Using the HIrisPlex system, they were able to reconstruct his hair and eye color. They found that Sikorski possessed blue eyes and blond hair, which was in correlation with the paintings of the general made many years after his death, reports Agence France Presse news agency.

The research team also tested the DNA samples of 12 unknown people who were killed in a prison in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942. The tests revealed that the individuals had either blue or brown eyes, and their hair color ranged from light brown to blond.

"This system can be used to solve historical controversies where color photographs or other records are missing," Wojciech Branicki, from Poland's Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow, told the AFP.

The findings of the study appear in the journal Investigative Genetics.

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