Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ushering in Intelligent Fingerprints

by Andrea Campbell

A genius group from the UK is on to something big. They have found a way to glean lifestyle information from fingerprints. Not only that, but the fingerprints when rendered will be of a high resolution—meaning it will be easier to read the finest points of a print—and, they’ve made it possible to collect this information in situ, on site!
We’ve known for ages that fingerprints are obtained because sweat is secreted through the pores on our skin to create friction ridge patterns. These patterns form a maze that when lifted or dusted and put down in order to visualize is a unique map to whom we are—a positive identification.
A Little More Individualized
What if we could determine more about a person from analyzing the chemicals in the sweat we naturally secrete? That’s it! This team developed a method to test the antibodies, metabolites and nanoparticles, the chemicals if you will, that make up some of the properties within the sweat. Scientists can now determine whether the individual tested has been using nicotine or illegal drugs.
The Idea on Simmer
Previously, David A. Russell and Dr. Sue M. Jickells, co-wrote a paper in 2007 that promised this technique: “…direct chemical information from drugs or drug metabolites present in minute quantities of sweat deposited with a latent fingerprint to provide ‘lifestyle intelligence’ regarding an individual.”
This device allows samples to be collected from suspects
on site using disposable analysis cartridges in mere minutes.
Fast forward to today. Intelligent Fingerprint Ltd. is now a company of six researchers looking to commercialize this methodology. The technique would be best suited for law enforcement, border security, prison services and health care.
The Skinny on How It Works
The secretions left behind in a fingerprint, visible or not, contain materials from both the apocrine and eccrine glands. This is comprised of water, chlorides, lactic acid, ammonia, creatinine, inorganic ions, amino acids, and metabolites. It is the chemicals from metabolic processes that are the exciting part. Food is metabolized but our metabolic substances can also point to whether a person has smoked or taken drugs. According to Kristi Mayo, author of “Beyond Identification” for Evidence Technology Magazine, writes, “a metabolite of nicotine is cotinine. After a person smokes a cigarette, cotinine can be found in his or her saliva, serum, urine—and sweat.”

The testing equipment is easily portable.
This new technology then, utilizes high-sensitivity reagents, made of anti-body coated nanoparticles. These tiny particles are either gold or iron oxide that bind or cling to the antibodies of proteins and other molecules. The antibody nanoparticles conjugate—combine two substances in such a way that they can easily be separated again—then bind to metabolic antigens found in the fingerprint. Right now the reagents under this new technology can locate nicotine, drugs common to abuse, and the stress hormone cortisol.
What this means is—instead of having to catch someone and do an invasive body test of their blood, urine or saliva, the same results can be taken up from a fingerprint.
It Gets Better
Not only are there drawbacks attached to the invasive form of body fluid testing, namely, the bio-hazard risk, the need for cold or frozen transport storage, but the sample can often get contaminated. Intelligent Fingerprint however, came up with a prototype handheld device that can be used anywhere, and also, they have put together reagent kits that can analyze samples taken either from the individual, or from touched surfaces. These chemicals can test for: cocaine, methadone, morphine and the psychoactive substance found in cannabis.
A prototype of the Intelligent Fingerprinting handheld
sample-and-analyze device.
What this ultimately means is that crime scene investigators could lift prints, test them right there on site with the reagent kit, and know whether someone has used cocaine, other drugs or marijuana. Any additional information toward identification is definitely a boon. There are some questions that need to be addressed in the near future but, isn’t new technology great?

For more information:
Mayo, Kristi, Beyond Identification, Evidence Technology Magazine, March-April, 2012, pgs. 20-25.

Photos courtesy of Intelligent Fingerprinting, Ltd.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well I can tell you are enthusiastic but if someone has broken into somewhere, you probably don't really need a machine to tell you they are on drugs, there's probably about a 90% chance of that in any case.

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Dallas Attorneys said...

A very informative post indeed with a lot of useful info. I hope I’ll find other posts like this in the future. Thanks!