Social benefits of non-criminal genetic databases: missing persons and human remains identification.
A Missing Persons Genetic Identification Program (Phoenix Program) was implemented in Spain in order to try to identify cadavers and human remains that could not be identified using traditional forensic approaches; to our knowledge, this is the first database ever implemented and in function in the world. Two separate mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) databases have been generated and comparisons can be made automatically to match identical or similar sequences contained in both databases. One database is called the Reference Database (RD), which contains mtDNA sequences from maternal relatives of missing persons that provide the samples voluntarily after informed consent. The other database is called the Questioned Database (QD) and is comprised of mtDNA data on unknown remains and cadavers that could not be unequivocally identified. The combined database is a civil database designed solely for human identification and because of the informed consent and voluntary donation of reference samples is different from other databases now used to solve criminal cases. It is timely and incumbent on other willing countries to begin an international collaboration so compatibility and full utility can be enjoyed with this kind of non-criminal database.