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A New Approach to Amino Acid Racemization in Enamel: Testing of a Less Destructive Sampling Methodology

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Aspartic acid racemization has been found to be an accurate measure of age at death for recent forensic material. This paper examines the practicality of using acid etching of the tooth surface to extract amino acids from the enamel for racemization analysis. By serial etching of the tooth and contamination of the teeth with bovine serum albumin prior to etching, the ability of etching to remove contamination was assessed. The destructiveness of the method was visualized and quantified using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT). By bleaching the teeth and by deeper etching it was possible to obtain more consistent values. While etching had little effect on the enamel at the macroscale, it did have an impact at the microscale. The quantities of enamel removed varied depending upon the tooth morphology, but were not large. Acid etching of enamel thus appears to be a promising new method for extracting proteins for amino acid racemization age estimation noninvasively.
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Keywords: acid etching; age estimation; amino acid racemization; contamination; enamel; forensic anthropology; forensic science

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Edinburgh Dental Institute and Department of Pathology, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL, UK. 2: BioArch, Departments of Archaeology and Biology, University of York, YO10 5DD, UK. 3: Department of Engineering, Centre for Medical Engineering and Technology, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, UK.

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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