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Anat Cell Biol

Published online October 19, 2022


Copyright © Korean Association of ANATOMISTS.

The impact of age on the morphology of the 12th thoracic vertebral endplates

Nefeli Garoufi1 , Andreas Bertsatos1 , Marie Louise Schjellerup Jørkov2 , Chiara Villa2 , Maria-Eleni Chovalopoulou1

1Department of Animal and Human Physiology, Faculty of Biology, School of Sciences, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece, 2Section of Forensic Pathology, Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Correspondence to:Andreas Bertsatos
Department of Animal and Human Physiology, Faculty of Biology, School of Sciences, University of Athens, Athens GR15701, Greece
E-mail: abertsatos@biol.uoa.gr

Received: May 18, 2022; Revised: May 11, 2022; Accepted: August 3, 2022

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The current article explores the aging effects on the overall morphology of the endplates of the 12th thoracic vertebra (T12), while screening for sex differences. It further evaluates the suitability of T12 for estimating age-at-death in bioarcheaological contexts. We captured the morphology of the vertebral endplates, including the formation of osteophytes, in a novel continuous quantitative manner using digital photography. 168 Greek adults from the Athens Collection were used for modeling the aging effects and another 107 individuals from two Danish archaeological assemblages for evaluation. Regression analysis is based on generalized additive models for correlating age-at-death and morphological variation. Our proposed measurement method is highly reliable (R>0.98) and the main differences observed between sexes are size related. Aging has considerable effect on the endplate morphology of the T12 with the total area of the endplate, the area of the epiphyseal rim, and the shape irregularities of the endplate’s external boundary being mostly affected. Multivariate regression shows that aging effects account up to 46% of the observed variation, although with differential expression between sexes. Correct age prediction on archaeological remains reached 33% with a prominent tendency for overestimation. The morphology of the T12 endplates is influenced by age and it can provide some insight with respect to the age-at-death of unidentified individuals, especially when other skeletal age markers are unavailable. Our proposed method provides an age-estimation framework for bioarchaeological settings, especially for estimating broader age ranges, such as discriminating between young and old adults.

Keywords: Aging effects, 12th thoracic vertebra, Vertebral endplate morphology, Generalized additive models, Age-at-death estimation


Supplementary File