A new method to find the time of death shows promise

AN EXAMPLE of the far reach of artificial intelligence (AI) is provided by a recent study in forensic science by Roderic Guigó of the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona. Although DNA samples are commonly used to help identify bodies, Dr Guigó and his colleagues have trained an AI agent to work out how long a corpse has been dead, based on the expression in the deceased’s cells of messenger RNA, a molecule that is allied to DNA. In life, messenger RNA carries the plans of proteins from genes in a cell’s chromosomes to tiny factories, called ribosomes, where those proteins are then made. The researchers are collaborators in an international project called GTEx, which since 2010 has collected post-mortem samples from hundreds of donors. By analysing the quality and concentration of RNA sequences produced within cells it is possible to measure how actively particular genes are being read and translated into proteins. This helps to explain how the cells of living organisms work,... Continue reading