Messenger RNA, Hemoglobin, Age Determination, Gene Expression Profiling, Forensic Biochemistry, Forensic Science, Biological Age, Quantitative Real-time PCR


It is now a matter of routine for the forensic scientist to obtain the genetic profile of an individual from DNA recovered from a biological stain deposited at a crime scene. Potential contributors of the stain must either be known to investigators (i.e. a developed suspect) or the questioned profile must be searched against a database of DNA profiles such as those maintained in the CODIS National DNA database. However, in those instances where there is no developed suspect and no match is obtained after interrogation of appropriate DNA databases, the DNA profile per se presently provides no meaningful information to investigators, with the notable exception of gender determination. In these situations it would be advantageous to the investigation, if additional probative information could be obtained from the biological stain. A useful biometric that could provide important probative information, and one that may be amenable to molecular genetic analysis, is the biological age of an individual. The ability to provide investigators with information as to whether a DNA donor is a newborn, infant, toddler, child, adolescent, adult, middle-aged or elderly individual could be useful in certain cases, particularly those involving young children such as kidnappings or in providing additional intelligence during terrorist investigations. Currently no validated molecular assays exist for age determination. Biological human ageing can be defined by two distinct processes, degenerative and developmental ageing. The degenerative process of ageing is based on theories which identify an increase or decrease in physiological conditions with increasing age. In contrast, the developmental process of ageing is based on the theory that as individuals increase in chronological age, there will be subtle corresponding molecular based biological changes, each requiring genes to be expressed or silenced, indicative of that particular stage of life. We investigated the degenerative process of chromosomal telomere shortening, as well as the developmental process of gene expression profiling analysis, in an attempt to identify biomarkers of biological age in a self-renewing tissue such as blood. While telomere length analysis was an ineffective method for age determination; gene expression analysis revealed three gene transcripts expressed in an age-dependent physiological manner. These species namely- COL1A2, HBE1 and IGFBP3, were found to be expressed at elevated levels in younger individuals, newborns, or post-pubertal individuals, respectively. The biological process of hemoglobin switching was also investigated for the possibility of determining human age. While experimenting with the potential of using the gamma-hemoglobin chains, as newborn specific gene candidates, we serendipitously discovered four novel truncated transcripts, which we have termed HBG1n1, HBG1n2, HBG2n2 and HBG2n3; whose expression was restricted to whole-blood newborn samples and specific fetal tissues. The molecular origin of these transcripts appears to be at the RNA level, being produced by specific rearrangement events occurring in the standard gamma hemoglobin transcripts (HBG1 and HBG2), which yield these new isoforms that are expressed in a highly regulated tissue specific manner.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date





Ballantyne, Jack


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences


Biomolecular Science

Degree Program

Biomolecular Sciences








Release Date

July 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)