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Novel Blood Test Can Identify Suspects' Age From DNA

Update Date: Jan 26, 2016 10:46 AM EST

Scientists from the University of Leuven have created a new blood sample which has some unique properties. It can enable police officers to foretell the age of an individual, if the officers can analyse the aging process taking place inside the DNA, according to GlobalPost.

Hence, when the DNA profiles do not match any inside the databases or "potential suspects", the probes can get halted. It is a novel technique to help the cops when it gives them more data to put in efforts within "narrowing potential suspects".

"We looked at the literature and we found that specific chemical structure on the DNA is actually associated with age, so some chemicals at specific positions in our DNA actually increase or decrease with age, and we use the most significant positions to put them into a single test and use that on forensic samples," said Bram Bekaert, lead researcher of the project.

There is an increasing change in the tissues and organs as we get on in years, which is a process that is governed by our DNA, explains the university's press release.

Scientists analysed four DNA methylation markers that were related to advancing years and then tested them pitted against hundreds of blood samples from crime victims, whose age was familiar. Hence, the team could test their new technique.

"We extracted the most significant ones (markers), most significant positions from those, put them together, we analyzed them in a large population of blood samples and small population of teeth and then correlated the chronological age, so the actual age of the individual with our predicted age and we saw that we could actually get a very nice correlation, a highly significant correlation with age," said Bekaert.

The exciting results showed that the individuals' age could be identified just by basing them on their blood samples, giving a margin of error of just 3.75 years. With younger suspects, the results improved.

"The blood test, for example, has an accuracy of about 3.75 years over a whole age population, meaning that from newborns up to about 91 years of age our accuracy was about 3.75," Bekaert said. "The younger the individual is the higher the accuracy is because it has had less influence of the environment. So the more a person has an influence over the environment on his epigenome, as we call it, so the chemical structures on the genome the larger the error rate will become. So the error rate for younger people is about two years of age while for 91 years of age it will be about five and a half, six, years of age."

The findings were published in the Aug.17, 2016 issue of Epigenetics.

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