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08.05.2020 | Original Article

Beyond metrics and morphology: the potential of FTIR-ATR and chemometrics to estimate age-at-death in human bone

International Journal of Legal Medicine
Mariana Pedrosa, Francisco Curate, Luís A. E. Batista de Carvalho, Maria Paula M. Marques, Maria Teresa Ferreira
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In forensic anthropology, the application of traditional methods for estimating the biological profile of human skeletal remains is often hampered by poor preservation and skeletal representativeness, compromising their reliability. Thus, the development of alternative methods to the morphometric analysis of bones to estimate the biological profile of human remains is paramount. The age of an individual can cause changes in bone morphology, mass and size, as well as in its chemical composition. In this sense, the main objective of this research was to evaluate if the contents of bone collagen (Am/P), carbonate type A (API), carbonate type B (BPI), the relation between the carbonate content (types A and B) to type B carbonate (C/C), carbonate-phosphate ratio (C/P) and crystallinity index (CI), spectroscopic indices obtained from relationships between infrared absorption band intensities (FTIR-ATR), can be used as age-at-death predictors. A sample of femora and humeri from the 21st Century Identified Skeleton Collection (N = 80, 44 females and 36 males) was employed. Results show that, with advancing age, women’s femora have lower CI values, but BPI and C/P indices increase, and the deformation and disorder of the crystal lattice are probably affected by the integration of type B carbonate content of the femur. The ratios analysed, especially the CI and the BPI, show potential to estimate age-at-death in human skeletal remains, when sex is already known, thus helping to assess the biological profile when conventional methods cannot be applied.

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