Your hairs may hold the secrets to everything about you. And the discovery could change how we conduct criminal investigations.
We all know that DNA holds all of the coding that makes us who we are, and it is the best way to pinpoint an actual individual during crime investigations. But since many crime scenes have clear DNA markers, researchers have been looking for something else that could be just as precise — and they may have found it in the human hair.
The U.S. National Research Council in 2009 called for new research to improve forensic science methods, and now, in a new paper published in PLOS One, scientists out of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California think they’ve found a way to substitute human hair — specifically, analyzing the genetic mutations of proteins found in hair.
“The researchers were able to examine bioarcheological hair samples from six individuals that were up to 250 years old, demonstrating the robustness of these proteins,” the statement reads. “They analyzed these samples along with hair samples from 76 living humans of European American and African descent. They have found a total of 185 hair protein markers to date, which they estimate would be sufficient to provide a unique pattern for an individual that could distinguish that person among a population of one million.”
It’s not going to substitute for DNA analysis overnight, but it is an important step forward in forensic science methods that could completely change how we do crime investigations in the future.
“We are in a very similar place with protein-based identification to where DNA profiling was during the early days of its development,” said LLNL chemist Brad Hart, the director of the Lab’s Forensic Science Center and co-author of a paper detailing the work. “This method will be a game-changer for forensics, and while we’ve made a lot of progress toward proving it, there are steps to go before this new technique will be able to reach its full potential.”
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