Programmica: Snip of hair can nail criminal now

By | May 14, 2009

A snip of human hair, recovered from a crime site, would now be enough to nail its perpetrator, thanks to a new technique developed by researchers.

Called Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS), the portable tool has the advantage of being readily available and could be used for forensic analysis.

Sarina Brandes, a chemistry masters researcher at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) who adapted this technique, said it was independent of analysis of DNA, which could break down quite quickly, especially during disasters.

Her supervisor, Serge Kokot, who has researched the forensic possibilities of human hair for the past 12 years, said human hair could survive relatively harsh environments, where DNA couldn’t.

“NIRS has been found to need only a few millimetres of a single hair for analysis, but until now, we have not had the ready capacity to apply this technology in harsh environments,” Kokot said. …

Kokot said Brandes’ technique could obtain the infrared profile from only a tiny part of a strand of hair and then interpret this profile using specialised mathematical methods to compare it with similar profiles collected from suitable reference hair samples.

“In this manner, Sarina’s technique can establish a person’s gender, race and whether they had chemically treated their hair, as well as what the original hair colour was,” he said, according to a QUT release.

via Programmica: Snip of hair can nail criminal now.

NIRS can also be used to study the brain:

NIRS can be used for non-invasive assessment of brain function through the intact skull in human subjects by detecting changes in blood hemoglobin concentrations associated with neural activity, e.g. in branches of Cognitive psychology as a partial replacement for fMRI techniques. NIRS can be used on infants, where fMRI cannot (at least in the United States), and NIRS is much more portable than fMRI machines, even wireless instrumentation is available, which enables investigations in freely moving subjects[1]). However, NIRS cannot fully replace fMRI because it can only be used to scan cortical tissue, where fMRI can be used to measure activation throughout the brain. – wiki

Well, that’s interesting technology, but crime scene investigators should be careful not to arrest a hair extension or human hair skirt donor!

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