The Center for DNA Identification - Institute of Biotechnology under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology has just organized a ceremony to hand over the results of DNA assessment of unknown fallen soldiers’ remains in 2020 to the Department of National Devotees under the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs on Vietnam’s Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Day (July 27, 2020) and on the 1st anniversary of the center.
The Center handed over 669 cases of remains with good quality DNA data for storage at the DNA bank of the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs for comparison and matching with fallen soldiers’ relatives in the future. This is the effort of the staff of the Center for DNA Identification (Center) in coordination with the Department of National Devotees to take samples of the remains of fallen soldiers at fallen soldiers’ cemeteries across the country, such as Vi Xuyen, Song Ma, and Vietnam Laos, after a year of operation (July 2019). The Center conducted 2,870 analyses of fallen soldiers’ remains and 180 samples of fallen soldiers’ relatives. The Center also deployed research to optimize the inspection process on the Center's available systems, in order to increase extraction and analysis capacity from 60 samples/month (2018) to 400 samples/month (2020), corresponding to 96 samples/week. In addition to analyzing the DNA samples of remains, the Center also built four databases of Kinh, Mong, Ede and Tu Di ethnic groups to serve the inspection and increase the accuracy of the assessment results.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phi Quyet Tien, Deputy Director of Institute of Biotechnology and Director of Department of National Devottees (Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs) signs the Minutes of handover of DNA assessment results of uninformed fallen soldiers’ remains in 2020 (1st phrase).
The remains and relatives samples were made on a combination of 10 modern clean rooms. The Center also has equipment for automatic DNA extraction, DNA amplification and verification, a new generation of DNA sequencing system, a server system for storing and analyzing data. During the COVID-19 pandemic (social distance due to COVID-19 in March and April 2020), the Center participated in decoding the entire SARS - CoV2 virus genome sequence in four days from a sequencing system of the Center. With the Center's 3rd generation sequencing technology, the virus genome can be decoded and assembled without the reference genome, meeting the ability to adapt to a new disease caused by a virus, without waiting for support from the international community.
Speaking at the ceremony, Director of the Department of National Devotees Dao Ngoc Loi said that up to now, more than 900 thousand fallen soldiers' remains have been collected for burial at cemeteries across the country. Of which, more than 200 thousand fallen soldiers' remains have not been identified. The DNA assessment method to identify fallen soldier’s remains is a scientific method and has high results. The Center for DNA Identification in collaboration with the Department of People with Merits, in examining the DNA of fallen soldiers' remains, has contributed to returning many fallen soldiers' identities, decoding many genomes of martyrs' remains, fallen soldiers’ relatives to store in DNA bank. Mr. Loi wished that the Center for DNA Identification would speed up the process of DNA examination of fallen soldiers' remains because the more time passes, the faster the quality of the remains of the martyrs deteriorates and their relatives keep getting older.
According to Assoc. Prof. Phi Quyet Tien, Deputy Director of Institute of Biotechnology, Center for DNA Identification is one of three key units assigned by the Government to analyze DNA to identify fallen soldiers' remains (Project 150 ), next to the Military Institute of Forensic Medicine (Ministry of Defense) and the Institute of Criminal Science (Ministry of Public Security). The center opened on July 25, 2019, at the Co Nhue Technology Development Research and Development Area, Co Nhue II Ward, Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi.
Since its operation, the staff of the Center have mastered the entire equipment system and completed the technology. Up to now, the Center has optimized and built a process to extract DNA from bone samples: a) The process of extracting DNA from perennial bone by organic methods; b) The process of DNA extraction from perennial bone using the EZ1 - Advantage automatic system; c) The process of DNA extraction from perennial bone by Isopropanol precipitation method. The Center also initially experimented and built a new identification procedure on a new generation sequencing system with the aim of increasing accuracy with perennial bone samples, and degenerative bone samples. Currently, the Center is the only unit in Vietnam capable of using the most modern sequencing systems in the world to apply to analysis of remains. These are important prerequisites for the Center to successfully complete the task of identification of fallen soldiers' remains.
The Center has also been working closely with major organizations in the United States such as the USAID project to assist in providing and enhancing the technical capacity to use DNA information to analyze and identify fallen soldiers' remains. Foreign organizations such as the International Commission on the Missing Persons (ICMP), the DNA Identification Laboratory of the United States Armed Forces (AFDIL) and the QIAGEN Group (Germany) go hand in hand to modernize the examining technology with difficult samples in Vietnam.
A year after opening and coming into operation, the Center has performed well its duties and its core role in the assessment of missing information fallen soldiers' remains. In the future, the Center will continue to apply the optimized procedures to identify more than 4,000 fallen soldiers, contributing to the return of names to unidentified fallen soldiers, partly meeting the requirements of the people and Government expectations.
Translated by Tuyet Nhung
Link to Vietnamese version