16 December 2008

Fingerprints: not only forensics, but also diagnostics

Dmitry Safin, "Compulenta" based on ABC Science materialsFingerprinting – a method of identifying a person's fingerprints – has been used in criminology for more than a hundred years.

Today, iron oxide particles are used to analyze this kind of evidence; when applied to the surface that the suspect touched, they bind with microscopic inclusions of minerals, oils and water and reveal a papillary pattern.

David Russell and Pompi Hazarika from the University of East Anglia have found a way to modify the existing technology: they propose attaching magnetic oxide particles to antibodies, then dissolving the resulting drug and processing the fingerprint with it.

If the chemical substance that this variant of antibodies is fighting is detected on the surface, the drug molecules attach to their target and begin to emit radiation of a certain range. Researchers have already learned to recognize traces of five different drugs in fingerprints: marijuana, cocaine, nicotine, methadone and its derivative.

(The green glow of this fingerprint indicates that the person who left it used marijuana. Image obtained by David Russell).

According to scientists, other drugs, in particular, all other opiates, can be registered in the same way.

Even more interesting is the use of this technology to determine the state of human health: it is known that with the development of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other serious ailments, the chemical composition of sweat changes, and antibodies can detect substances specific to each of the diseases. The new method also makes it possible to reveal some of the external circumstances of the case: for example, if the accused fired an automatic weapon or held explosives in his hands, traces of chemicals remain on his palms – and on the surfaces he touched. Investigators, as we see, have the opportunity to narrow down the circle of suspects, lawyers and prosecutors have strong arguments "for" or "against" this or that version in court.

The researchers do not undertake to name the timing of the release of the new technology to the market and the exact cost of conducting analyses using such a system. "The price will not be too high; however, ordinary magnetic powder will still be cheaper," admits Professor Russell.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru16.12.2008

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