Rib biomechanical properties exhibit diagnostic potential for accurate ageing in forensic investigations

Bonicelli, Andrea, Xhemali, Bledar, Kranioti, Elena F. and Zioupos, Peter (2017) Rib biomechanical properties exhibit diagnostic potential for accurate ageing in forensic investigations. PLoS ONE, 12 (5). e0176785. ISSN 1932-6203

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176785


Age estimation remains one of the most challenging tasks in forensic practice when establishing a biological profile of unknown skeletonised remains. Morphological methods based on developmental markers of bones can provide accurate age estimates at a young age, but become highly unreliable for ages over 35 when all developmental markers disappear. This study explores the changes in the biomechanical properties of bone tissue and matrix, which continue to change with age even after skeletal maturity, and their potential value for age estimation. As a proof of concept we investigated the relationship of 28 variables at the macroscopic and microscopic level in rib autopsy samples from 24 individuals. Stepwise regression analysis produced a number of equations one of which with seven variables showed an R2 = 0.949; a mean residual error of 2.13 yrs ±0.4 (SD) and a maximum residual error value of 2.88 yrs. For forensic purposes, by using only bench top machines in tests which can be carried out within 36 hrs, a set of just 3 variables produced an equation with an R2 = 0.902 a mean residual error of 3.38 yrs ±2.6 (SD) and a maximum observed residual error 9.26yrs. This method outstrips all existing age-at-death methods based on ribs, thus providing a novel lab based accurate tool in the forensic investigation of human remains. The present application is optimised for fresh (uncompromised by taphonomic conditions) remains, but the potential of the principle and method is vast once the trends of the biomechanical variables are established for other environmental conditions and circumstances.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The original data used for the models in this paper can be found on CORD, the Cranfield University repository, at https://doi.org/10.17862/cranfield.rd.4758001.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Adult, Age Determination by Skeleton/methods, Aged, Autopsy, Biomechanical Phenomena, Bone Density, Bone and Bones/cytology, Cause of Death, Collagen/metabolism, Female, Forensic Sciences/methods, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Porosity, Reproducibility of Results, Ribs, Young Adult
Subjects: B100 Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology
C100 Biology
C900 Others in Biological Sciences
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Applied Sciences
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2021 14:50
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 10:32
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/46578

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