Researchers have found that technology known as MALDI-MSI (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging) can be applied at crime scenes for the tandem detection of human blood and DNA-typing from enhanced fingerprints.
It means that, within the system investigated, suspect identification through DNA can be carried out alongside MALDI-MSI to test for the presence of blood, so that police can also identify which biofluid the DNA originated from and the possible perpetrator.
It also helps police to associate a victim's blood with the perpetrator's fingermark, thus placing the suspect at the scene of a crime.
The Fingerprint Research Group is led by Professor Simona Francese, and this latest development is an extension of the team’s ongoing research into how fingerprint technology can provide crime investigators with additional biometric information about a criminal's activities prior to committing a crime. This can relate to the detection of drugs, hair and cleaning products, condom lubricants and blood, with the possibility to reliably confirm the presence of blood and its origin, whether human or animal.
Professor Simona Francese, an internationally renowned researcher in forensic and bioanalytical mass spectrometry, said: “MALDI-MSI technology is already used in police casework however this advancement has widened the opportunities for it to be used. Our research has found that, within the system investigated, DNA profiling is still possible after the application of the method as a confirmatory test for blood detection and visualisation in fingermarks, to help police narrow down the number of suspects and better understand a crime scene.”
The research is EU-funded through the European Cooperation in Science and Technology’s COST Actions programme and has been carried out in collaboration with the Israel police. The partnership has stemmed from longstanding links within two international networks - the International Fingermark Research Group and the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes. The funding has enabled Ravell Bengiat PhD from the Division of Identification and Forensic Science in the Israel Police, to visit the Centre of Mass Spectrometry Imaging at Sheffield Hallam University to undertake the research.
The Israel police force co-authored the study and has suggested a way to integrate the use of MALDI-MSI into its CSI and crime lab operational workflow covering blood evidence.
Conventionally, fingerprints are found at a crime scene by using chemical or physical treatment to visualise the marks and enable the comparison with fingerprint records on national police databases to identify a suspect.
MALDI-MSI is a powerful technology, normally used to map drugs, pharmaceuticals and biological molecules within tissue sections. In fingerprinting research, the technology has been developed and adapted to provide multiple images of such species in fingermarks thus yielding biometric information as well as intelligence on possible lifestyle or suspect ‘activities’.
In laboratory settings the technology has proven to be compatible with procedures used by crime investigators across the world to visualise latent fingermarks. It also has been found recently that the technology may be used for triaging crime scene marks through the determination of the sex of an individual.