Application of Aspartic Acid Racemization for Age Estimation in a Spanish Sample

Sara C. Zapico, Douglas H. Ubelaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Correct age-at-death estimation in adult individuals is one of the challenges of forensic investigation. Forensic anthropology macroscopic techniques are non-invasive methods for this purpose. However, several methods need to be applied to accurately estimate age, and the difference between chronological and predictive age may still be around ±10 years. New research trends are focused on the inherent process of aging, which produces changes in tissues and organs at different biochemical levels. One of the oldest and most studied approaches in this field is aspartic acid racemization. The accuracy of this technique in age estimation has been widely demonstrated. However, only a few studies have assessed its accuracy in different populations. The aim of this research was to assess the accuracy of aspartic acid racemization in a Spanish sample and its applicability to forensic cases. Dentin from fifteen third molars from two Spanish populations (ages 19–70 years old) was isolated and D and L forms of aspartic acid were detected through GC/MS, according to a previous published protocol. D/L ratios were calculated and after the application of a regression analysis, a formula for age estimation was developed. The results were similar to previous studies, obtaining an R = 0.91 between racemization ratios and age and a mean absolute error (MAE) between chronological and predictive age of 5 years. These results were ratified by leave-one-out cross-validation, as well as the application of the formula to five teeth of a known age. Despite these promising results, this technique is not exempt from drawbacks; thus, further studies are required to apply this methodology to forensic cases and to combine it with forensic anthropology findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number856
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Spanish sample
  • age-at-death
  • aspartic acid racemization
  • forensic anthropology
  • skeletal remains


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