Can You Get DNA from Bones? The Surprising Answer!

About DNA and Bones

Bones are calcified tissues that form the framework of the human body. They are composed of organic and inorganic materials that provide strength and the ability to take on various shapes, sizes, and functions. DNA, on the other hand, is the genetic material that carries an individual’s hereditary information. It is present in almost all living organisms, including humans. The question is, can you get DNA from bones?

What is DNA?

DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. It is a double-stranded molecule that contains an individual’s hereditary information that is passed down from the parents to the offspring. The four nucleotides that make up DNA are Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G), and Cytosine (C). DNA is made up of these nucleotides arranged in a specific sequence; this sequence is unique to every individual and is responsible for our physical and genetic traits.

What Are Bones?

Bones are a type of connective tissue that provides structural support and protection for internal organs. They are made up of both organic and inorganic materials, including collagen, calcium, and phosphate. Bones continuously undergo remodeling throughout an individual’s life by breaking down old bone tissue and replacing it with new bone tissue.

Can You Get DNA from Bones?

The short answer is yes. You can obtain DNA from bones. But it depends on various factors like the age of bones, environmental factors and the testing method used. The extraction process can be challenging, but advancements in technology have made it easier to extract DNA from bones using specialized techniques.

Factors That Affect DNA Extraction from Bones

  • Environmental factors: Exposure to heat, humidity, and other environmental factors can degrade the DNA present in bones, making it harder to extract.
  • Age of bones: The age of bones can also impact the DNA extraction process. As bones age, they may become more brittle, and the DNA may also break down or become degraded.
  • Tissue preservation: Preservation of the tissue and the type of tissue can also affect the likelihood of DNA extraction.

Methods for Obtaining DNA from Bones

There are different methods for obtaining DNA from bones, and these include:

  • Extraction from fresh bones: Fresh bones are the easiest to extract DNA from. The process involves breaking down the bone tissue to extract the DNA present in the bone marrow.
  • Extraction from bones in a decomposed state: In cases where the body has been decomposed or skeletonized, extraction is more challenging. This process involves using harsh chemicals to dissolve the bones and extract the remaining DNA.
  • Extraction from ancient bones: Archaeologists have used DNA extraction from ancient bones to study prehistoric human migrations and even the domestication of livestock.

Uses of DNA Extracted from Bones

There are several applications of DNA extracted from bones, and these include:

  • Forensic investigations: DNA extracted from bones plays a crucial role in forensic investigations. It helps identify individuals who have gone missing or those whose remains have been discovered.
  • Identifying ancestral origins: DNA extracted from ancient bones can give researchers insight into the ancestral origins of specific populations, which can inform the understanding of human migrations.
  • Resolving paternity/maternity disputes: DNA extracted from bones can also help resolve disputes over paternity or maternity.

The Future of DNA Extraction from Bones

Advancements in technology continue to make it easier to extract DNA from bones. With the aid of high-throughput sequencing technology, scientists can now obtain DNA from ancient bones that were once considered too old to produce viable genetic material. This could lead to more explorations into humanity’s evolutionary past, and it has already led to the development of several tools that allow us to understand human history better.


In conclusion, obtaining DNA from bone tissue is indeed possible, but the success of the process depends on various factors. Extracting DNA from bones is being used in various fields, from forensic investigations to understanding human history. With advancements in technology, researchers can now extract DNA from older bones than previously possible.

Frequently asked questions

  • Is it possible to extract DNA from all types of bones?

    Yes, DNA can be extracted from all types of bones, but the extraction success might vary depending on the age, type and preservation of the bones.

  • How is DNA extracted from bones?

    DNA extraction from bones involves breaking down the bone tissue to extract the DNA present in the bone marrow. There are different methods for extracting the DNA from bones depending on the age and preservation of the bones.

  • What is the oldest DNA extracted from bones?

    The oldest DNA extracted from a bone was from a 1.2 million-year-old ancient horse leg before the horse genus even was thought to exist.

  • How accurate is DNA extracted from bones?

    DNA extracted from bones is generally quite accurate, but factors like contamination, age and preservation of the bones might have an impact on the accuracy of the results.


  • Butler, J. M., & Shen, Y. (2019). The future of forensic DNA analysis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 374(1785), 20190100. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0100
  • Cooper, A., & Poinar, H. N. (2000). Ancient DNA: do it right or not at all. Science, 289(5482), 1139-1139. doi: 10.1126/science.289.5482.1139
  • Rohland, N., & Hofreiter, M. (2007). Ancient DNA extraction from bones and teeth. Nature Protocols, 2(7), 1756-1762. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2007.247

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