Human DNA extraction from highly degraded skeletal remains: How to find a suitable method?

Diana C. Vinueza-Espinosa, Cristina Santos, Cristina Martínez-Labarga, Assumpció Malgosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Retrieving DNA from highly degraded human skeletal remains is still a challenge due to low concentration and fragmentation, which makes it difficult to extract and purify. Recent works showed that silica-based methods allow better DNA recovery and this fact may be attributed to the type of bones and the quality of the preserved tissue. However, more systematic studies are needed to evaluate the efficiency of the different silica-based extraction methods considering the type of bones. The main goal of the present study is to establish the best extraction method and the type of bone that can maximize the recovery of PCR-amplifiable DNA and the subsequent retrieval of mitochondrial and nuclear genetic information. Five individuals were selected from an archaeological site located in Catalonia–Spain dating from 5th to 11th centuries AD. For each individual, five samples from different skeletal regions were collected: petrous bone, pulp cavity and cementum of tooth, and rib and limb bones. Four extraction methods were tested, three silica-based (silica in-suspension, HE column and XS plasma column) and the classical method based on phenol–chloroform. Silica in-suspension method from petrous bone and pulp cavity showed the best results. However, the remains preservation will ultimately be the key to the molecular result success.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2149-2158
Number of pages10
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • DNA extraction
  • Highly degraded human skeletal remains
  • mtDNA
  • Silica-based extraction methods
  • STRs


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