You’re currently putting your story together and you’ve just described the crime scene. There’s blood present, which is believed to belong to the suspect.  You get your forensic examiners to analyse the blood sample that they think belongs to the suspect.  They tell your fictional detective that they have extracted the suspect’s DNA but that it doesn’t match anyone recorded on the DNA database so without further information, they still have no idea who the suspect may be.

However, based on the latest research findings from  the KU Leuven Forensic Biomedical Sciences Unit in Belgium, it is now possible to predict the age of a suspect or unidentified body from a sample of their blood, rather than merely extracting DNA from the blood to check against the DNA Database.

Scientists from KU Leuven have developed the test which predicts an individuals’ age on the basis of blood or teeth samples. This test may be particularly useful for the police, as it can help track down criminals or identify human remains.

The aging process is regulated by our DNA and human tissues and organs change as we grow older.

Professor Bram Bekaert from the KU Leuven Forensic Biomedical Sciences Unit explains: “The behaviour of our organs and tissues depends on which of our genes are activated. As we grow older, some genes are switched on, while others are switched off. This process is partly regulated by methylation, whereby methyl groups are added to our DNA. In specific locations, genes with high methylation levels are deactivated.”

Bekaert and his colleagues were able to predict an individuals’ age on the basis of a set of four age-associated DNA methylation markers. The methylation levels of these markers can be used for highly accurate age predictions. The researchers were able to determine an individuals’ age with a margin of error of 3.75 years for blood samples and 4.86 years for teeth.  More information can be found at http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news/2015/blood-and-teeth-predict-age

The new technique is potentially useful in the context of police investigations because it can help determine the age of criminals or unidentified bodies, which in turn can lead to identification.

Remember this little fact when putting your story together if it is being based on now and the near future.  It’s pretty useless for stories set in the past.

If you want to read more interesting facts, don’t forget to buy yourself a copy of 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police available on Amazon by clicking the title above or on the picture of the cover to the right.218 Fact Cover

Not only will you get 218 facts, you’ll also see 40 story ideas based on those facts in 36 different areas of policing.

Topics covered include but are not limited to:

  • the organisation of the police
  • crime scene attendance, assessment and investigation
  • police intelligence work
  • police interviews
  • custody suite issues
  • the role of the Senior Investigating Officer

Use 218 Facts a Writer Needs to Know About the Police to make your stories realistic, to provide you with ideas you’d never thought of before and best of all, to prevent you from embarrassing yourself in front of your readers.

If you think your friends or colleagues would find the book useful, please let them know about it.

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Comments
  1. Bren says:

    Very interesting. Have to think how I can use this information. Thanks, Kevin.

    Like

  2. Jack Dowd says:

    Very useful. Do we have any idea how long until the research is complete and the police are using this?

    Like

    • Hi Jack. Any SIO who was aware of the research findings would be able to utilise the research from the day of release of the results. They may have to justify their decision to use it in court should an “innocent” suspect claim they were wrongly identified through this method but they would not have ended up being charged with an offence solely because they fit the the age range.

      Like

  3. Pete Denton says:

    Fascinating as always.

    Like

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