Any single hair from anywhere on the human body can be used to identify a person.
This conclusion is one of the key findings from a nearly year-long study by a team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Forensic Science Center (FSC) and Michigan State University.
The team’s study, published in Scientific Reports, a journal of Nature Magazine, could provide an important new avenue of evidence for law enforcement authorities in sexual assault cases
In 2016, FSC scientists developed the first-ever biological identification method that exploits the information encoded in the proteins of human hair from people’s heads. This forensic science breakthrough provides a second science-based, statistically validated way to identify people and link individuals to evidence in addition to DNA profiling.
“This new paper focuses on elucidating more of the hair protein chemistry and its effects on the protein marker identification,” said chemist Fanny Chu, the paper’s lead author, a graduate student at Michigan State University and a Livermore Graduate Scholar, a program that allows Ph.D. students to work on their thesis at LLNL.
“We’ve already shown that we can use human hair from people’s heads for identifying people. Now the question arises: Can you get the same identification information from hair in other body locations?
“In this paper, we studied arm and pubic hair compared with head hair. We found that arm and pubic hair essentially give us the same information as head hair,” Chu continued.
It is anticipated by the LLNL-Michigan State team that the “real relevance” of their research could come in helping law enforcement authorities investigate sexual assault cases, said paper co-author and FSC chemist Deon Anex.
“Pubic hair from an assailant can often be found during an examination of a sexual assault victim. Because of this research, the analysis of protein identification markers in such pubic hair could someday be used as evidence in criminal cases,” Anex said.
Based on the protein content of the hairs, the forensic scientists indicated that they also can determine whether an individual hair is from a person’s head, arm or pubic area.
The Latest on: Biological identification
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