Boost for old fingerprint technique

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  • Published: Feb 10, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Infrared Spectroscopy / NMR Knowledge Base / Base Peak / Raman / X-ray Spectrometry / Atomic / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / MRI Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / Proteomics

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Fingerprints, or fingermarks as they are now known, have been in the press a lot recently, largely due to the efforts of the Francese research group at Sheffield Hallam University. They have shown that fingermarks contain residues of drugs that people have taken, as well as evidence of their gender by the presence of particular peptides and proteins. Condoms lubricants are also released in fingerprints and can be detected by mass spectrometry, providing valuable forensic evidence.

Not that conventional fingermark technology has been standing still. Scientists in China have just reported that they have improved photoluminescence detection to the point that the classical fluorescence background has been eliminated. They achieved this with the aid of DNA aptamers which are specific to lysozyme. Human sweat always contains lysozyme, so presents a different way to observe the fingermark.

By attaching the aptamers to special nanoparticles and depositing them onto the fingermark, they attach to the lysozyme which is present on the ridges. The nanoparticles were then detected by irradiation with a portable near-infrared laser which excited them to release high-energy photons that could be detected by a digital SLR camera. The usual suspects in the surfaces on which fingermarks are laid are not excited by NIR light, so background fluorescence does not occur. The technique was demonstrated successfully for fingermarks on various surfaces from various people.

The adaptability of the process was demonstrated by replacing the DNA aptamer with one that recognises cocaine. Sure enough, the drug was detected along with a full fingerprint, so that evidence linking the owner to cocaine handling is gained in one step. Extension to other drugs or biomedical compounds should be attainable simply by changing the aptamer to one that binds to the target compound, so long as it also sticks to the nanoparticles.

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