November 24, 2015 -
Researchers at State University of New York at Albany have released a new study that may help forensic scientists ascertain whether a fingerprint found at a crime scene belongs to a man or a woman, according to a report by The New York Times.
The study details a simple test based on certain amino acids in the fingerprints, in which the levels are twice as high in the sweat of females as in that of males.
“Fingerprints have really been treated as pictures for more than a hundred years,” said Jan Halamek, a forensic scientist at the SUNY at Albany and one of the study’s authors. “The only major improvements in recent years have been due to software and databases that make it faster to match fingerprints.”
Halamek and his team tested fingerprints on a range of surfaces, including a doorknob, laminate desktop, composite bench top and computer screen.
Regardless of the surface area, the researchers were able to determine whether the fingerprint belonged to a woman by simply testing the levels of residual amino acids.
The scientists published their findings in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Dr. Halamek emphasized that the study involved only a few fingerprints and that further testing using a larger sample would be needed to ensure the significance of the study’s results.
The team is currently developing additional fingerprint tests based on protein markers found in blood samples.
“We want to create a very simple kit which can determine on the spot whether the person was young or old, male or female, and their ethnicity,” Dr. Halamek said, adding that the tests could not replace DNA tests.