An advisory panel says that scientists should proceed cautiously with testing bone fragments, hair and blood stains from Abraham Lincoln to determine whether he suffered from an inherited condition called Marfan syndrome.
Because scientists have not yet arrived at a final method for such testing, the panel did not give a final go-ahead and added that "ethical guidelines on DNA testing are continuing to be developed and must be considered before a final decision on whether to proceed with analysis of Mr. Lincoln's DNA."The panel, which made its recommendation Thursday, was convened by the National Museum of Health and Medicine. That museum holds 10 bone fragments from Lincoln's skull that were recovered when doctors performed an autopsy after the 16th president was assassinated. Also saved from the post mortem and in the museum's possession are strands of Lincoln's hair and blood stains on the cuffs of a shirt worn by one of the doctors.
Using these 126-year-old specimens, new techniques may make it possible to clone Lincoln's DNA, his genetic pattern, and determine whether he had Marfan syndrome, which may have given him his tall, gaunt appearance. These techniques could be ready as early as next year.
"The committee's conclusion is not intended as a generic recommendation that it is permissible to test the remains of dead public figures for genetic and other disorders," said Dr. Victor McKusick, a Johns Hopkins professor.