Skip to main content

Bone age

In mass disasters and in many homicides the identity of the subjects is crucial. Dead victim identification (DVI) is a global interest, and most countries around the world participate in collaborative networks to provide reference information of missing persons to facilitate the identification casework. Whenever there is no clue as to the identity of the victim, the sex and the age constitute the most important variables to limit the search for possible matches. The sex can usually be determined by either anthropological methods or with DNA analyses, whereas the age of the person remains a challenge to all professionals. We have developed a feasible protocol for analysis of bomb-pulse generated C-14 levels in dental enamel of teeth. These analyses are now performed on a regular basis upon the request by pathologists and the police. Analysis of C-13 can also be performed and provide clues to the geographical origin of the decedent. We have recently also developed an LC/MS method for analysis of aspartic acid racemization, which together with the C-14 result can give an estimate of the year of death. We are now launching studies on human bones, since many skeletal finds lack teeth. The plan is to analyze bomb-pulse generated C-14, and aspartic acid racemization ratio in the collagen and mineral fractions of the cortical and trabecular parts of bones, and also to analyze the DNA methylation of select genes. Since different components of bone are exchanged at different rates during life we will apply mathematical modeling to provide appropriate prediction of year of birth and age at death, respectively. The plan is also to analyze a few more stable isotopes to improve prediction of provenance and hopefully we will be able to track migration of subjects.