Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The eyes have it: Researchers can now determine when a human was born by looking into the eyes of the dead

30.01.2008
Using the radiocarbon dating method and special proteins in the lens of the eye, researchers at the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus can now establish, with relatively high precision, when a person was born. This provides a useful tool for forensic scientists who can use it to establish the date of birth of an unidentified body and could also have further consequences for health science research. The findings are published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE on January 30.

The lens of the eye is made up of transparent proteins called crystallins. These are packed so tightly together and in such a particular way, that they behave like crystals, allowing light to pass through the lens of the eye so that we can see. From conception and up until a human being is 1-2 years of age, the cells in the lens build these crystalline proteins. Once this organic construction work is done, however, the lens crystallins remain essentially unchanged for the rest of our lives. This is a fact that researchers can now put to good use.

A minute quantity of Carbon (C-12) in the carbon-dioxide content of the atmosphere contains two extra neutrons and is therefore called Carbon-14 (C-14). This isotope is radioactive, but decays so slowly and harmlessly into nitrogen, that this small carbon element, which occurs quite naturally in nature, is in no way harmful to humans, plants or animals.

At the same time, carbon is one of the principal organic elements, and constantly moves in and out of the food chain. The same is true for the tiny quantity of C-14 in the atmosphere. As long as an organism is part of the food chain, the amount of C-14 in its cells will remain constant and stay at the same level as the C-14 atmospheric content. When the organism dies, however, the quantity of C-14 will slowly but surely drop over the course of thousands of years, while it transforms into nitrogen. This is they key to the Carbon 14 method known as radiocarbon dating, which scientists use to date up to 60, 000 year old biological, archaeological finds.

... more about:
»C-14 »CONTENT »Carbon »Nuclear »Tissue »atmosphere »crystallins »lens

From the end of World War II and up until about 1960, the superpowers of the Cold War era, conducted nuclear tests, detonating bombs into the atmosphere. These detonations have affected the content of radioactive trace materials in the air and created what scientists refer to as the C-14 bomb pulse. From the first nuclear detonation and, until the ban on nuclear testing was evoked, the quantity of C-14 in the atmosphere doubled. Since 1960, it has only slowly decreased to natural levels.

This sudden curve has left an impression in the food chain and therefore also in the lens crystallins of the eyes, which have absorbed the increased carbon content through food stuffs. Since the crystallins remain unchanged once they have been created, they reflect the content of C-14 present in the atmosphere at the time of their creation. An event occurring shortly after birth. Using a large nuclear accelerator, physicists at Aarhus University can now determine the amount of C-14 in as little as one milligram of lens tissue and thereby calculate the year of birth.

Associate Professor Niels Lynnerup from the Department of Forensic Sciences developed the forensic method, together with the Department of Eye Pathology and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Arhus University, Denmark.

Professor Lynnerup explains that the technique can have several other applications: “As has been pointed out by other researchers, we think that the carbon dating of proteins and other molecules in the human body can also be used to study when certain kinds of tissue are generated and regenerated,” he explains. “This could, for example, be applied to cancer tissue and cancer cells. Calculating the amount of C-14 in these tissues could perhaps tell us when the cancerous tissues formed, and this could further the understanding of cancer.”

Citation: Lynnerup N, Kjeldsen H, Heegaard S, Jacobsen C, Heinemeier J (2008) Radiocarbon Dating of the Human Eye Lens Crystallines Reveal Proteins without Carbon Turnover throughout Life. PLoS ONE 3(1): e1529. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001529

Andrew Hyde | alfa
Further information:
http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0001529

Further reports about: C-14 CONTENT Carbon Nuclear Tissue atmosphere crystallins lens

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>