Here is the press release from Dr. Coble, I post it with his permission:
US, European Scientists Report Findings of the Two Missing Romanov Children
An international team of researchers confirm the identity of the Tsar’s two missing children using forensic DNA testing.
Forensic DNA testing of skeletal remains of two individuals discovered in a field outside of Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2007 belong to Crown Prince Alexei Romanov and one of his sisters, ending one of the greatest mysteries of the twentieth century. The study, is published March 11th in the online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.
On July 17, 1918 Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, their five children, the family physician, and three loyal servants were murdered by their Bolshevik executioners to prevent an attempted rescue from the nearby White Russian Army, who were loyal to the Tsar. After a botched attempt to hide the remains in an abandoned mine shaft, the Bolsheviks first tried to cremate two of the children (those discovered in 2007) and then buried the remaining nine bodies in a mass grave (officially discovered in 1991).
Dr. Michael Coble from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) in Rockville, Maryland, was invited by the Prosecutor’s Office of Russian Federation to conduct an independent investigation of the remains in October of 2007. Coble and Dr. Anthony Falsetti, of the University of Florida, traveled to Yekaterinburg in November of 2007 to examine the remains. “Of the 44 bone fragments and teeth present, it was possible to determine that at least two individuals were present – one female and one putative male,” said Falsetti, a co-author of the study.
Coble and Dr. Odile Loreille, lead authors of the publication, also requested that another independent laboratory be involved. Dr. Walther Parson at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria conducted an independent analysis of the remains in the spring of 2008. “It is important in an investigation of this magnitude that independent, parallel studies are conducted to confirm the results” according to Dr. Parson. In addition to the remains from 2007, both laboratories were given skeletal material from the 1991 for comparison. Both laboratories then blindly sent their results to Dr. Peter Gill at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, for an independent evaluation of the results. Dr. Gill led the first DNA investigation of the 1991 mass grave in 1993.
Scientists from both laboratories used a three-prong approach to confirm their findings. First, mitochondrial DNA testing was conducted to confirm the sequence of the 2007 remains to the sequence of Alexandra and a living maternal relative, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Next, using sensitive techniques to amplify low levels of DNA, the scientists were able to develop a full Y-chromosomal STR profile from one of the bone samples that had been identified as a putative male. When compared to the Y-STR results from a tooth of Tsar Nicholas II, the researchers found an exact match. A comparison to a living Romanov cousin yielded the same Y-STR profile. Finally, the researchers developed a complete 16-marker autosomal STR profile for each member of the Russian royal family from the 1991 grave and from the two individuals in the 2007 grave.
The results demonstrate the presence of a family group, and represent the most comprehensive examination of the Romanov remains to date. “Here we are able to give a full account of all of the Romanov family and can conclude that none of the family survived the execution in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918,” the scientists note in the paper.
In addition to the analysis of the skeletal remains, Coble also collaborated with the Sverdlovsk Regional Forensic Bureau Laboratory in Yekaterinburg to confirm their independent autosomal STR and Y-STR analysis of a blood stain on a shirt worn by Nicholas when he was a young man. On April 29, 1891 while touring the city of Otsu, Japan the Tsarevich Nicholas Romanov was attacked by a Japanese policeman during an attempted assassination. Nicholas survived the attack and the bloody shirt he had worn that day was returned to Russia as a relic of the attack. The results were completely concordant. “For the first time, there is now a link between the ante-mortem evidence DNA profile from Nicholas II to the post-mortem skeletal remains from the first grave discovered in 1991,” said Coble.
“It’s rewarding to finally conclude this mystery 16 years after the first analysis of the remains,” reported Dr. Gill.
PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004838
(link will go live tommorrow)
CITATION: Coble MD, Loreille OM, Wadhams MJ, Edson SM, Maynard K, Meyer CE, Niederstätter H, Berger C, Berger B, Falsetti AB, Gill P, Parson W, Finelli LN (2009) Mystery Solved: The Identification of the Two Missing Romanov Children Using DNA Analysis. PLoS ONE