We have been reading, about 'stop spitting to hide your age'. Ever wondered why would there be a sentence like this, and what does it mean? Well, the secretion in the mouth has a direct or indirect role to play in almost every function of the body. Yes, the saliva. The only times we ever think about it, is during a test like a saliva swab test for example, that is prescribed for any health issue. But most of you will be surprised to know that, saliva test has been in the news, and this time it is not for getting to the root of a disease. But it is for getting down to the root of your birth year!
Most of us never thought of a saliva sample test as the key to find someone's age. But this great breakthrough has been achieved by scientists in the United States. This is not only an achievement in the field of science and research, but it also forms a major tool in forensics for crime and other investigations.
Using a Saliva Test to Determine a Person's Age
Researchers suggest that the saliva has information and secrets about the genetics of a person. They also suggest that a proper analysis of the saliva sample of a person can help determine a person's age to within 5 years. So how does this work, and what is that factor which enables this?
Age identification based on the saliva sample of a person is related to a process known as methylation. Now what exactly is methylation? Well, in this process, modification of the building block chemicals that make up the DNA, takes place. As the patterns for methylation are known to shift as we age, DNA is altered as we age. Research and scientists have found some 88 sites of DNA, that establish a relation between methylation and age. There are specifically two genes that relate methylation with a person's age. These genes are the keys that help in determining how old a person is.
In a recent study, saliva samples from 34 pairs of identical male twins were collected. The age group of these men was 21 to 55 years. After studying the samples, researchers concluded that the differences in methylation patterns of these men could successfully be used to determine their age. Dr. Sven Bocklandt, a former UCLA geneticist, involved with this research has said that the relationship between methylation and a person's age is so strong that just two building blocks of a person's genome can be of great help in detecting his/her age.
The research team has concluded that the saliva samples taken for the test can be from a toothbrush or tooth bite of a person whose saliva is to be tested or even a cup/mug/glass or any utensil he/she has used.
The Research Fundamentals
According to Dr. Eric Vilain, who is the professor of genetics, pediatrics and urology at ULCA, and who led this research, saliva can effectively be used for the prediction of a person's age. He has also stated that, their research will help in the correct evaluation of a suspect's age, that will aid a lot in medical as also criminal investigations.
This is more than news for forensic and crime scene investigators. This gives them an effective forensic tool to determine a person's age, that can help resolve many criminal cases all with a swab or trace of the saliva, found on anything at the crime scene.
Another important thing about this research is that a saliva sample can be used to detect a person's bio-age, which makes it greatly useful in medical science. It's because, a saliva test can help the doctors, predict any health issues that a person may have to face in future. On determining a person's bio-age and thus the health concerns he/she is likely to have, doctors will be able to suggest effective precautionary measures, thus avoiding a lot of health risks.
According to Dr. Vilain, the saliva sample test to detect a person's age, would be relatively simpler, thus eliminating the need for other costly and time-consuming diagnostic tests and treatments. Also, this test could forewarn a person about the health risks he has, as it would detect his bio-age, which could be different from his true age.
This was a brief description on using saliva samples for determining a person's age and it surely can prove helpful in the fields of forensic science and medicine. This research is indeed something to be proud about.