Age estimation based on aspartic acid racemization in human sclera
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Age estimation based on racemization of aspartic acid residues (AAR) in permanent proteins has been established in forensic medicine for years. While dentine is the tissue of choice for this molecular method of age estimation, teeth are not always available which leads to the need to identify other suitable tissues. We examined the suitability of total tissue samples of human sclera for the estimation of age at death. Sixty-five samples of scleral tissue were analyzed. The samples were hydrolyzed and after derivatization, the extent of aspartic acid racemization was determined by gas chromatography. The degree of AAR increased with age. In samples from younger individuals, the correlation of age and d-aspartic acid content was closer than in samples from older individuals. The age-dependent racemization in total tissue samples proves that permanent or at least long-living proteins are present in scleral tissue. The correlation of AAR in human sclera and age at death is close enough to serve as basis for age estimation. However, the precision of age estimation by this method is lower than that of age estimation based on the analysis of dentine which is due to molecular inhomogeneities of total tissue samples of sclera. Nevertheless, the approach may serve as a valuable alternative or addition in exceptional cases.
KeywordsAge estimation Aspartic acid racemization Sclera
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