Epigenetics as a Forensic Tool

Study (accessible at Forensic Science International ) looks at epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation, and their use in forensic investigations.  

ABSTRACT:

DNA methylation of cytosine residues is a stable epigenetic alteration, beginning as early as foetal development in the uterus and continuously evolving throughout life. DNA methylation as well as other epigenetic modifications such as chromatin remodelling and histone modifications are indispensable in mammalian development. Methylation is to a large extent influenced by the ageing process, diets and lifestyle choices. Our understanding of this crucial modification may even contribute to the treatment and prevention of age-related illnesses in the very near future. Genome-wide methylation analysis using high throughput DNA technologies has discovered numerous differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) which differ in levels of methylation in various cell types and tissues. TDMRs have been useful in various applications, particularly medicine and forensic sciences. Forensic scientists are constantly seeking exciting and novel methods to aid in the reconstruction of crime scenes, and the analysis of tDMRs represents a new and reliable technique to identify biological fluids and tissues found at the scene of a violent act. Not only has research been able to unequivocally identify various fluids and tissues, but methods to determine the sex, age and phenotype of donors has been developed. New tDMRs in genes are being searched for consistently to serve as novel markers in forensic DNA analysis.

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