Dating fingerprints

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  • Published: May 25, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Atomic / Raman / NMR Knowledge Base / MRI Spectroscopy / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Base Peak / Chemometrics & Informatics / X-ray Spectrometry / Proteomics / Infrared Spectroscopy

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The worldwide interest in the science of fingermarks, a topic which has grabbed the public attention and hit the news headlines, should continue with the revelation by scientists in The Netherlands that they can now estimate how long a fingermark has been present. This will aid law enforcements officers who can now link a suspect to the time of the crime as well as the scene of the crime.

The technique, described in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, exploits the fact that lipids that are laid down within the fingermark undergo natural oxidation over time. The oxidation products are fluorescent and happen to react with tryptophan-containing proteins that are also present to form a fluorescent product that can be measured by fluorescence spectroscopy.

Once the rate of oxidation and the relative levels of the oxidation products have been estimated, the age of a fingermark can be determined for up to 3 weeks, with an accuracy of 1.9 days. However, at this stage of the method development, it is limited to male donors because the majority of the female fingermarks examined did not produce sufficiently strong fluorescence signals.

Given the preponderance of men versus women in criminal activity, this "female problem" should not affect the acceptance of the method. The ages of about 55% of the male fingermarks tested could be estimated.

The procedure expands the types of information that can be gleaned from fingermarks, supplementing the recent findings on gender, drug handling, drug taking and condom lubricants. The fluorescence technique should also be applicable to other types of body fluids such as vaginal fluid and semen.

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