Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $235,894)
As submitted by the proposer:
For years, fingerprint samples have been believed to be useful only for matching purposes using the unique ridges, shapes, and sizes. With the rapid growth of forensic science, it has become evident that the development of fingerprint analysis methodology has been stagnant. The traditional pictorial comparison used for the past century have been useful for the identification of some individuals, but many fingerprint samples have been labeled unusable due to smudging, smearing, or any one of a myriad of reasons that could cause inconclusive matches. These samples can, however, still be of use. This is because the fingerprint patterns that have been studied over the years are generated by various chemical components being left on objects upon contact with the fingertips. This chemical composition contains sebum, sweat, and a variety of lipids found to be secreted from the fingertips. In the last few months, a biochemical method using enzymatic systems, as well as a chemical method, have been developed by our group for the purpose of studying this composition. These methods use the amino acid content in fingerprints to differentiate between male and female fingerprints this is only one of the many possible characteristics that can be identified.
The research proposed here further explores the concept of determining attributes of an originator via the fingerprint contents mentioned above. The systems presented here are designed to be versatile and adjustable enzyme cascades that will produce easily interpretable results. These simple outputs will make it possible for all members of law enforcement to conduct and understand the results regardless of the level of scientific knowledge or specialized training. Furthermore, the various cascades presented here are only a few of many possibilities. This basic methodology can easily be applied to a large range of biomarkers for the discernment of many characteristics.
If this bioaffinity-based methodology proves to be successful for differentiating originator characteristics via fingerprint contents, instrumental analysis will be utilized for identifying further targets for the proposed concept. Mass spectrometry would be used for the chemical mapping of various fingerprint samples based on different originator characteristics followed by the development of multiple systems to be used for the differentiation of the samples based on the aforementioned characteristics. The successful development of this concept would lead to a new treatment of fingerprints as a source of evidence. This project could revolutionize on-site forensic analysis, as a result, accelerating the rate of criminal investigations.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.