Identifying Gender From a Fingerprint
(Shutterstock)Fingerprints have been the standard in identification for more than a century. But even as other biometrics are being looked at to identify individuals, researchers are continuing to look for ways to pull more information from the unique patterns and traces left behind by a touch.
Race, and exposure to drugs and explosives have been the focus of recent studies. But now, even gender can be determined from the concentration of amino acids in a fingerprint, according to the latest study published by a University at Albany team in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Heating the fingerprint surface to 40 degrees Celsius forced the amino acids to separate out of the print, according to the researchers. Then the sample was analyzed with a chemical dye that oxidized to a telltale color based on the concentration of amino acids.
Since females have more amino acids, the test proved 99 percent effective, the team concludes.
“It provides a quick male/female response and can be performed on-site,” the team writes. “These results can narrow down the possibilities in a suspect pool in a quick and timely manner when there is not matching fingerprint image or DNA profile in the corresponding databases.
“Furthermore, this type of analysis can potentially be utilized by any and all members of law enforcement with no need for specialized training, as it works in a similar manner to pregnancy strips or glucometers,” they add.
Jan Halamek, lead author, told Forensic Magazine by email that the next experiments would be implementing methods to pull the amino acids from fingerprints on random surfaces, and to also deploy the chemicals directly to the fingerprint at the scene. One would be a portable, strip-like device, he explained. Proof-of-concept papers are in the works, he added.
Use at actual crime scenes would depend on funding, and getting law-enforcement partners, Halamek added.
Other teams have looked to the details in fingerprints to potentially help determine commonalities among drug users, ethnic groups, and other identifying factors.
A National Institute of Standards and Technology team found it could determine trace levels of drugs in fingerprint residue using mass spectrometry, in a study published in May.
The whorls and ridges of a fingerprint pattern could be used in the future to determine race and ethnic group, according to a study published in September.
The controversial study maintains that much more work needs to be done to complete a database of the pattern differences, however.