The impact of burial period on compact bone microstructure: histological analysis of matrix loss and cell integrity in human bones exhumed from tropical soil

Astolphi, Rafael Dias, Seixas Alves, Maria Teresa, Evison, Martin, Arrabaça Francisco, Raffaela, Aurélio Guimarães, Marco and Iwamura, Edna Sadayo Miazato (2019) The impact of burial period on compact bone microstructure: histological analysis of matrix loss and cell integrity in human bones exhumed from tropical soil. Forensic Science International, 298. pp. 384-392. ISSN 0379-0738

[img] Text (full text)
Astolphi - The impact of burial period on compact bone microstructure AAM.pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 14 March 2020.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.

Download (163kB) | Request a copy
Official URL:


Human bone histological analysis is a useful tool to assess post mortem diagenesis and to predict successful nuclear DNA typing of forensic material. This study is part of a series of studies developed by the authors intended to improve the understanding of post mortem diagenesis and to develop applications for DNA analysis of skeletal species from tropical soils, in order to optimize genetic and anthropological protocols. The aim of this study was to analyze the impact of burial period on the integrity of exhumed compact bone microstructure from tropical climate. In fragments of exhumed human femora from 39 individuals from the same cemetery (exhumed group) and 5 fresh femora from routine autopsies (control group), sections stained by hematoxylin-eosin were analyzed in order to measure bone microstructural integrity. We found that bone integrity index in exhumed group was negatively influenced by the period of burial (r=-0.37, p<0.05) and highly significantly decreased (p<0.0001) in comparison to control group. The period of burial and nitric acid decalcification time was positively correlated (r=0.51; p<0.01), leading to imply a bone petrification process during inhumation. Exhumed group showed higher level of matrix bone loss (p<0.001), as expected, and 87% of cases analyzed were “tunneled” as described by Hackett. Bone integrity index and bone matrix tend to decrease in bones buried in tropical soil between 8-14 years of inhumation. This period is short if we consider cases in which there are preserved bones interred for longer periods in other environments. These data must be considered in cases where genetic identification of exhumed skeletons from tropical environment is required. The diagenesis in these bones and the variations of results found are discussed, clarifying some challenges for forensic laboratories, especially in DNA analysis.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Forensic sciences, exhumation, compact bone, burial environment, postmortem diagenesis
Subjects: F400 Forensic and Archaeological Science
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Applied Sciences
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2019 10:55
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2019 07:52

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics