DNA-Based Methods for Age Estimation

  • Matteo Cassina
  • Maurizio Clementi


The age estimation of unidentified cadavers and human remains is a challenging field of forensic medicine and several methodologies have been proposed, including morphological and biochemical analyses. Since the identification of a number of age-related DNA modifications, several new molecular approaches have been proposed. The first DNA-based method that has been extensively studied for the application in forensic age estimation was the analysis of telomere repeats of human chromosomes; subsequently, other techniques have been proposed, including the analysis of the mitochondrial DNA variants and the more recent approaches based on the evaluation of sjTREC rearrangements in T-cells and the methylation status of the human genome. Many studies have been conducted to standardize the sampling methods, the accuracy and the reliability of age determination using molecular techniques; the most promising results have been obtained with the analyses of sjTREC rearrangements in blood samples and the methylation profile of tissues. Conversely, most studies have shown that the accuracy of both the analyses of mitochondrial DNA and telomere length are not sufficiently high to be used in forensic practice. In fact, age-related DNA modifications are susceptible to a number of variables that can alter their measure and limit the precision and reproducibility of the assays; important factors include the type of tissue used for the analysis, the characteristics and life style of the subject, the level of degradation of DNA due to the effects of post-mortem environmental agents. The real challenge is to create a model that can provide the most accurate estimation in consideration of this large number of variables.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clinical Genetics Unit, Department of Women’s and Children’s HealthUniversity of PadovaPaduaItaly

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