Molecular pathology and age estimation

Christoph Meissner*, Stefanie Ritz-Timme

*Corresponding author for this work
59 Citations (Scopus)


Over the course of our lifetime a stochastic process leads to gradual alterations of biomolecules on the molecular level, a process that is called ageing. Important changes are observed on the DNA-level as well as on the protein level and are the cause and/or consequence of our 'molecular clock', influenced by genetic as well as environmental parameters. These alterations on the molecular level may aid in forensic medicine to estimate the age of a living person, a dead body or even skeletal remains for identification purposes. Four such important alterations have become the focus of molecular age estimation in the forensic community over the last two decades. The age-dependent accumulation of the 4977. bp deletion of mitochondrial DNA and the attrition of telomeres along with ageing are two important processes at the DNA-level. Among a variety of protein alterations, the racemisation of aspartic acid and advanced glycation endproducs have already been tested for forensic applications. At the moment the racemisation of aspartic acid represents the pinnacle of molecular age estimation for three reasons: an excellent standardization of sampling and methods, an evaluation of different variables in many published studies and highest accuracy of results. The three other mentioned alterations often lack standardized procedures, published data are sparse and often have the character of pilot studies. Nevertheless it is important to evaluate molecular methods for their suitability in forensic age estimation, because supplementary methods will help to extend and refine accuracy and reliability of such estimates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-3
Pages (from-to)34-43
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 15.12.2010


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