A team of forensic biomedical scientists from KU Leuven have developed a test that can predict individual’s age on the basis of blood or teeth samples, and it is expected this test will be particularly useful for the police in helping to track down criminals or identify human remains.
Professor Bram Bekaert from the KU Leuven Forensic Biomedical Sciences Unit explained: “The behaviour of our organs and tissues depends on which of our genes are activated. As we grow older, some genes are switched on, while others are switched off. This process is partly regulated by methylation, whereby methyl groups are added to our DNA. In specific locations, genes with high methylation levels are deactivated.”
Bekaert and his colleagues were able to predict individuals’ age on the basis of a set of four age-associated DNA methylation markers. The methylation levels of these markers can be used for highly accurate age predictions. The researchers were able to determine individuals’ age with a margin of error of 3.75 years for blood samples and 4.86 years for teeth.
The new technique is potentially useful in the context of police investigations because it can help determine the age of criminals or unidentified bodies, which in turn can lead to identification.
This study was published in the journal Epigenetics.