Science

Chemistry reveals whether fingerprints came from a male or a female

Chemistry reveals whether fing...
Scientists have developed a technique that distinguishes between male and female fingerprints
Scientists have developed a technique that distinguishes between male and female fingerprints
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Scientists have developed a technique that distinguishes between male and female fingerprints
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Scientists have developed a technique that distinguishes between male and female fingerprints

The discovery of fresh fingerprints at a crime scene is a promising step towards determining the culprit, though huge databases still need to be sifted through in order to find potential matches and the culprit's prints need to be included in said databases. So what if many of the suspects could be ruled out before this rigorous search even begins? A new fingerprint identification technology is promising to lighten the load for investigators, by revealing whether prints belong to a male or female.

The new approach works on the premise that amino acid levels in the sweat of females are around twice as high as in males. Led by assistant chemistry professor Jan Halámek, a team of researchers from the University at Albany sought to use this biological difference to add another tool to investigators' arsenals.

The technique involves first transferring a fingerprint onto a piece of plastic wrap, where it is treated with a hydrochloric acid solution and then heated. This forces a chemical reaction that sees the water-soluble amino acids migrate into the acidic solution. Here, the team can assess the levels of amino acids and determine which sex the prints came from.

In initial testing where the team used imitation fingerprint samples, the method was able to distinguish between sexes with 99 percent accuracy. They then set up a mock crime scene, where three females left fingerprints on five surfaces, including a computer monitor and a doorknob. The team reports that the technique was successful in determining that the prints belonged to a female.

"One of the main goals for this project was to move toward looking at the chemical content within the fingerprint, as opposed to relying on simply the fingerprint image," Halámek said. "We do not intend to compete with DNA analysis or the databases used for identification. Instead we are aiming at differentiating between demographic groups, and more importantly, we are aiming at making use of fingerprints that are smudged/distorted or that don't have an existing match."

The team is now looking to further improve the new technique, while also developing more identification methods for other attributes that may aid in forensic investigations.

The research was published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Source: University at Albany

3 comments
jerryd
Don't believe it. There are at least 10% of people that are seriously something other than male/female from both sexes to no sex to a different sex in the brain from what the body looks like. Fact is most people are a blend of male, female. Since the only sex that matters is in the brain, I don't see how this test won't be at least 20% wrong by their method.
Wolf0579
You know, political criminals (politicians)commit way more crimes that impact way more people than the petty thief ever did.
Don Duncan
Wolf0579: Of course, everybody knows that. But that is a symptom of the fundamental problem that is created when the majority create a system of institutionalized violence and justify it as necessary for protection (security). This failed system is worldwide, hence, war, poverty and repression is the norm, and growing. Criminals will continue to reign until the myth that govt. protects is acknowledged as a lie. Then we can shrug off the parasite, stop self-enslaving, and live like sovereign individuals.