Light It Up: A Nanotechnology Approach for the Acquisition of Forensic Evidence

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Imagine you are watching a crime-solving TV programme. The forensic scientists have found a pair of jeans at a crime scene. They spray them with a solution, shine their 'torches' and, hey presto, blood, semen and saliva show up as brightly glowing spots each of a different colour. The scientists are able to identify what is present and then take a sample of each body fluid separately to obtain the DNA profile of the person who deposited each fluid. Is this reality? No, far from it. Currently, a different analysis (each requiring different chemicals and equipment) is carried out to detect and identify each of these body fluids. This is very time consuming an important factor when police are waiting for results which may help them solve a crime. The current methods also struggle to detect very small traces of body fluids. Given that it is now possible to obtain a DNA profile from one or a few cells, collecting traces of DNA at crime scenes is vital.Our proposed research aims to make TV fiction a reality by producing a solution which, when sprayed on items of forensic evidence, will cause any traces of blood, semen or saliva to fluoresce, so that forensic scientists are readily able to identify where the body fluids are located (and importantly, which ones are present) so that they can remove them for DNA profiling. 'Light It Up', as our solution is called, is based on very small particles called nanoparticles. Each nanoparticle will be coated with a biological molecule which recognizes and binds to another partner molecule. The bio-nanoparticle conjugates will have fluorescent tags on them so that when the specialist forensic light sources are shone on the item, the area where the body fluid is located will fluoresce with different colours, each colour representing a particular target fluid. For example, semen will show up as blue, saliva as green and blood as red. Knowing which body fluid is present can provide vital corroborative evidence for police investigations helping to support or refute suspect, victim or witness statements. 'Light It Up' will readily provide this information.We also aim to develop a solution of 'Light It Up' which will detect DNA directly in situ. It's the DNA that forensic scientists are really looking for when they search for biological fluids (although they also want information on the type of body fluid to help the police in their investigations). Finally, we wish to determine the generic applicability of 'Light It Up' to provide the police with information which can guide them in their investigations. For example, what other materials can we detect from fingerprints left at a crime scene which might help point the police in the right direction for their investigations?

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
Hazarika P (2008) Imaging of latent fingerprints through the detection of drugs and metabolites. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

publication icon
Hazarika P (2012) Advances in fingerprint analysis. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

publication icon
N/a Hazarika (2010) Imaging of drug metabolites in latent fingerprints in Analytical Chemistry

 
Description Imagine you are watching a crime-solving TV programme. The forensic scientists have found a pair of jeans at a crime scene. They spray them with a solution, shine their 'torches' and, hey presto, blood, semen and saliva show up as brightly glowing spots each of a different colour. The scientists are able to identify what is present and then take a sample of each body fluid separately to obtain the DNA profile of the person who deposited each fluid. Is this reality? No, far from it. Currently, a different analysis (each requiring different chemicals and equipment) is carried out to detect and identify each of these body fluids. This is very time consuming an important factor when police are waiting for results which may help them solve a crime. The current methods also struggle to detect very small traces of body fluids. Given that it is now possible to obtain a DNA profile from one or a few cells, collecting traces of DNA at crime scenes is vital.



Our proposed research aims to make TV fiction a reality by producing a solution which, when sprayed on items of forensic evidence, will cause any traces of blood, semen or saliva to fluoresce, so that forensic scientists are readily able to identify where the body fluids are located (and importantly, which ones are present) so that they can remove them for DNA profiling. 'Light It Up', as our solution is called, is based on very small particles called nanoparticles. Each nanoparticle will be coated with a biological molecule which recognizes and binds to another partner molecule. The bio-nanoparticle conjugates will have fluorescent tags on them so that when the specialist forensic light sources are shone on the item, the area where the body fluid is located will fluoresce with different colours, each colour representing a particular target fluid. For example, semen will show up as blue, saliva as green and blood as red. Knowing which body fluid is present can provide vital corroborative evidence for police investigations helping to support or refute suspect, victim or witness statements. 'Light It Up' will readily provide this information.

We also aim to develop a solution of 'Light It Up' which will detect DNA directly in situ. It's the DNA that forensic scientists are really looking for when they search for biological fluids (although they also want information on the type of body fluid to help the police in their investigations).

Finally, we wish to determine the generic applicability of 'Light It Up' to provide the police with information which can guide them in their investigations. For example, what other materials can we detect from fingerprints left at a crime scene which might help point the police in the right direction for their investigations?
 
Description Dstl 
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Forensic Science Service Ltd 
Organisation Home Office
Department Forensic Science Regulator
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Foster & Freeman Ltd 
Organisation Foster & Freeman
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Home Office Science 
Organisation Home Office
Department Home Office Scientific Development Branch
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2006
 
Title Fluorescence based detection of substances 
Description  
IP Reference WO2007110605 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
 
Company Name Intelligent Fingerprinting Ltd 
Description Intelligent Fingerprinting is focused on the development of products for the detection of drugs and drug metabolites in fingerprints. 
Year Established 2007 
Impact Company has raised >$10 USD in equity funding. Pilot projects are on-going. Company achieved ISO13485 accreditation in 2014. First products will be available in 2015.
Website http://www.intelligentfingerprinting.com/