Forensic anthropology using CT in Japan

Suguru Torimitsu1,2

1 Department of Forensic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo

2 Education and Research Center of Legal Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University


Forensic anthropology is a branch of biological anthropology that is broadly defined as the scientific study of human skeletal remains, severely decomposed bodies, or body parts for identification. Identification of unknown remains is one of the most important aspects of medicolegal practice. A forensic anthropologist can estimate biological profiles such as ancestry, sex, age, and stature of unknown remains. Before the 1940s, the practice of forensic anthropology was limited to anatomists, physicians, and physical anthropologists. During this formative period, there was no formal instruction in the forensic applications of biological anthropology and little published research. From the 1940s to the early 1970s, attention from medicolegal and military agencies increased as they began to recognize the utility of forensic anthropology in the identification of deceased service members from WWII and the Korean War. Forensic anthropologists began using their expertise to assist law enforcement agencies in identifying victims of crimes. Forensic anthropology in Japan also has a long history; a lot of biological profile estimation methods using Japanese bones have been reported since the early 20th century. However, Japan did not have documented human skeletal collections. As a result, the sample size was small, and it was difficult to report our research internationally. Recently, postmortem CT scanning has become a useful tool for forensic practice and is routinely performed in some forensic departments. CT scanning can provide detailed information about the deceased. This information can be crucial for identifying victims, determining the cause of death, and reconstructing past events. CT has various advantages, such as being excellent at depicting bones, eliminating the need for maceration procedures, allowing data to be stored semi-permanently in little space, and being able to perform measurements even after autopsy. Therefore, CT images are useful for forensic anthropology research. Chiba University and the University of Tokyo introduced postmortem CT systems in 2009 and 2016, respectively, and we have a large amount of postmortem CT image data. We then performed various bone measurements and investigated their usefulness. During the lecture, some of our published research results and thoughts on the prospects of forensic anthropology will be presented.