Snip of hair can nail criminal now

May 13th, 2009 - 11:00 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 13 (IANS) 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.

“Ms Brandes’ achievement also has the advantage to readily differentiate a naturally coloured hair from that treated with a hair dye to give a similar colour.”

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.

Besides Brandes’ technique could help to identify victims of natural disasters, like tsunamis, where hair has been in water, Kokot said.

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