About This Test
EasyDNA offers DNA testing on cremated remains. Whilst DNA testing is very reliable on remains that have not undergone cremation, the situation with cremated remains is more complex. Our DNA test on cremated remains offers the opportunity to include or exclude the presence of DNA in the ash sample provided.
How to ship cremated remains
Cremated ashes leave no type of organic material behind which means that they present no health hazard whatsoever. You should encounter no issues shipping this type of sample.
The aim of this test is to extract a DNA profile.
For an additional cost, you may choose to compare the profile of the deceased with a profile from another relative to establish if the 2 individuals are biologically related. A match between DNA profiles would indicate or confirm that they are in fact biological relatives.
The samples that can be used from the living relative including mouth swab samples as well as any of the samples listed on our forensic DNA testing page.
How is DNA preserved in cremated remains?
Human bones are mainly composed of calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate- these molecules are extremely strong and give bones their characteristic strength and durability. The temperature reached inside the cremation furnace is so high that only bones and teeth are left behind (although even these are altered by the extreme temperature); the rest will be simply ashes which consist of dry calcium phosphates with some minor minerals, such as salts of sodium and potassium. Sulfur and most carbon are lost as gases although a relatively small amount of carbon may remain as carbonate. The actual ashes are thus useless as they will not contain DNA. It is the bones and teeth that could potentially hold some DNA viable for analysis. However, after the cremation, the bones and teeth left behind are turned into a find powder (a process known as pulverization).
Important: The process of pulverization along with the extreme heat the bones are subjected to make extracting DNA a challenge. The chances of successful DNA extraction are low.
Do you always manage to extract DNA?
When it comes to extracting DNA from the bone shards of the deceased that has been cremated, it is important to understand that the chances of success are low. The extreme heat tends to destroy all the DNA in the body although in some cases we may be able to find some DNA that was spared from destruction by the heat in the furnace.
What happens during cremation?
Cremation is a process that normally takes around 2 hours. It does not require embalming, it involves removing all items on the body that the relatives wish to preserve or items that could interfere with the cremation process (such as pacemakers). The body is placed in a cremation casket or an appropriate container that is easily combustible so as to ensure the cremation is thorough. The casket is placed into the cremation chamber, sometimes called a retort. The heating machine, which uses a gas such as propane, is turned on and allowed to reach a temperature of around 1000 °C. After the process is complete, all organs, tissue and fat are entirely destroyed. However, bone fragments and teeth do survive cremation. These are actually pulverized using motorized blades at a later stage. The bones remains are turned into fine powder and it is these remains that form the ashes.
- The cremated remains of an adult male will weight around 2500-3000 grams
- The cremated remains of an adult female will weight around 1800- 2000 grams