New fingerprint technique determines gender, drug use

August 28, 2012 - 

The gender of suspects can now be determined from latent fingerprints.  Peptides and proteins left behind in fingerprints can be processed using a technique called mass spectrometric imaging, a new milestone in fingerprinting technology.

The technique, entitled the “matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation” process was developed by Simona Francese and Rosalind Wolstenholme of the Biomedical Research Center at Sheffield Hallam University.  The project is supported by UK’s Home Office in order to enhance the country’s law enforcement capacity.

In certain cases, the peptides and proteins left behind in fingerprints will be the only data police will have on suspects, especially if the suspect’s profile is not matched within the UK’s National Fingerprint Database.  Determining the gender, based on the chemical composition of a finger mark, can help narrow down suspects.

Based on a study using matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation profiling, 85 percent accuracy was gained using the technique.  The process can detect drug use or drug handling from lipids present in latent fingerprints. The profiling can help investigators create suspect composites along with determining the nutritional habits, drug use or hormonal status of a person.

Do you think matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation will eventually equal DNA profiling?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.