"The ability to assign accurate age estimates to living individuals and human remains has become an important element of forensic practice, due to increasing demands of the legal system in criminal prosecutions, and, increasingly important, determination of refugee status of asylum seekers.
Bone age estimation (BAE) from medical images of the dentition and skeleton provides means for objective and reliable age estimation. Established in forensic practice, BAE in two-dimensional (2D) x-ray images is a challenging task due to the projective nature of radiographic images and lack of reference standard for a particular population. Moreover, although exposure to ionizing radiation during x-ray scans is not likely to cause immediate harm, it does add to the total lifetime dose of radiation received by the individual. The use of ionizing radiation without medical or criminal indication is therefore not permitted in many countries, and either way leads to ethical questions. On the other hand, three dimensional (3D) MR imaging provides means for comprehensive measurements of bones and cartilage, without the use of ionizing radiation. This may lead to more reliable and more precise BAE compared to evaluations based on 2D radiographs.
The primary aim of the proposed project is to design and implement a software tool for automated age estimation based on the hand bones, clavicle and wisdom teeth in 3D MR images. By using the developed software, we will 1) investigate all of the information currently used for forensic age estimation of the same individuals, and get an insight into developmental differences between the hand bones, clavicle and wisdom teeth descriptors; 2) determine statistically relevant reference values for central Europeans of ages between 13 and 26 years. The project is expected to have a high social and economic impact by providing a novel completely non-invasive and automated method, which could become a new “gold standard” in age estimation of adolescents."
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