Fingerprints Reveal Lifestyle
Nothing new about fingerprints being unique to each individual – the knowledge has been use to identify people for more than one hundred years not only in forensic science to identify criminals but also in various other fields. More than 3,500 schools in UK, many in other European countries and now in the US use fingerprint locks for quick and sure identification of children for library and free lunch facilities. Lately, for security purpose, practice of installing electronic fingerprint reader in laptops is gaining popularity though early devices have been vulnerable to deception by use of fake fingerprints transferred on gel.
Since footprints are equally unique they too find similar applications. In the US, footprints of infants along with thumb or index finger impression of mother are recorded in hospitals to enable identification if babies get mixed.
Recent scientific researches have added another dimension to the use of fingerprints. British scientist David A Russell and his team claim that it is possible not only to identify a person from his fingerprints but also foretell information about his lifestyle. Fingerprints reveal whether one is a smoker or non-smoker, the diseases he suffers from and also the medications, the foods and the drugs he has consumed.
Scientists derive all this information by analysing the chemicals present in traces of perspiration, dead cells, skin oils and metabolites left on the surface along with fingerprints. They assure that the evidence is not likely to be misleading or tampered with because these chemicals are not the original foods or drugs but the metabolic products of the substances consumed. For example to distinguish a smoker form a non-smoker they look for ‘cotinine’ (a metabolic product of nicotine) instead of ‘nicotine’(found in tobacco) that the person is likely to have got on his finger while smoking.
The tests are quick and easy. The fingerprints are treated with a solution containing gold nanoparticles to which specific antibodies are attached. These bind to the metabolite like cotinine which further combines with a fluorescent dye making the fingerprints of a smoker become fluorescent while those of a non-smoker remain dark.
The information about lifestyle may find application in short listing the number of suspects in a judicial case and help judge the evidence better. It can also be used for detection of doping in athletes and others without taking blood samples. The method also offers a quick mass screening of diagnosis and detection of diseases and doping.