Bin Laden’s DNA May Have Come From MGH

Published May 2, 2011

U.S. authorities used “multiple methods,” including DNA matching, to identify Osama bin Laden’s body as one of the dead after the early morning raid in Pakistan.

From NPR’s Two-Way blog:

The AP reports that two Obama administration officials say “DNA evidence has proven that Osama bin Laden is dead, with 99.9 percent confidence.”

The AP adds that the officials did not say where or how the testing was done.

That “where or how” is now the focus of questioning.

Boston’s WCVB-TV reports that the DNA used to identify bin Laden’s body was extracted at Mass. General. Bin Laden’s sister died at MGH about a year ago and authorities saved some of her tissue for DNA testing, according to the report.

WBUR’s CommonHealth, however, says that the report has not been verified. “A Massachusetts General spokesperson says that the hospital has checked with multiple sources there and has been unable to confirm any aspect of the ABC report,” CommonHealth’s Carey Goldberg wrote.

It would be easy to identify bin Laden by his sister’s tissue using “commonplace PCR methods,” according to a blog post by the Scientific American. The post’s author, a Cell and Molecular Biology PhD student, reckons that you could identify the body in under five hours.

UPDATE: ABC News has backed off its story a bit. “It is unclear whether bin Laden’s sister, who died of brain cancer in Boston in 2005, was one of the relatives used in the comparison,” ABC’s Katie Moisse wrote in a recent story.