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The Study on Telomere Length for Age Estimation in a Thai Population

Srettabunjong, Supawon MD, LLB, MSc, MTox*; Satitsri, Saravut BSc*; Thongnoppakhun, Wanna PhD; Tirawanchai, Nednapis PhD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 148–153
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000095
Original Articles

Age is one of the key parameters in establishing a physical characteristic profile of an individual. For biological evidence left in crime scenes such as blood, saliva, hair, etc, the evidence owner’s age can be determined only by DNA extracted from these materials. Previous researches have found that there are certain DNA regions with specialized characteristic and function called telomere being able to predict age. The present study was to determine the correlation between telomere length and age as well as the effect of sex on the correlation and to create linear regression equation for age estimation in Thai population for forensic purposes. Blood samples obtained from unrelated healthy Thai fresh cadavers without anatomical organ abnormalities were used in this study. All cadaver subjects underwent the postmortem examination in jurisdiction of the Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, and Institute of Forensic Medicine, Police General Hospital. Fifty blood samples from both sexes of all ages divided into 6 groups for equal age distribution (0–11, 12–23, 24–35, 36–47, 48–59, and 60 years old and older) were collected for a total of 100 samples. The extracted genomic DNA samples were then subjected to telomere length estimation by terminal restriction fragment (TRF) assay. The results showed that the mean TRF length was inversely correlated with age (r = −0.625), and sex did not have a statistically significant influence on the association between age and mean TRF length (P > 0.05). The obtained linear regression equation was y = 113.538 ± 9.604 − 0.012 × (R2 = 0.391; P < 0.001). However, the correlation was too low to be used for age estimation with high certainty and a possible reason for this in part would be the postmortem DNA degradation at some level, even using fresh cadaver blood, and other biological factors such as ethnicity and DNA sources. Roughly, those individuals who had a mean TRF length longer than 6.3 kilobase (kb), between 5.5 and 6.3 kb, and shorter than 5.5 kb aged younger than 28 years, 30 to 44 years, and older than 46 years, respectively (P < 0.01). As a preliminary study, this study highlighted that telomere length could act as a useful biomarker of aging in human population and might be used for rough age estimation in a Thai population. However, further studies with a larger sample size and/or in living human bloods as well as other cell types are recommended to support the results of this study.

From the Departments of *Forensic Medicine, †Research and Development, and ‡Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.

Manuscript received October 10, 2013; accepted March 7, 2014.

This study was supported in part by the Siriraj Graduate Thesis Scholarship. The sponsor had no involvement in the development of the article or decisions related to the article.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Supawon Srettabunjong, MD, LLB, MSc, MTox, Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok 10700, Thailand. E-mail: supawon.sre@mahidol.ac.th.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.