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Analytical Reporter Mar/April 2020

Welcome to the very first issue of Analytical Reporter Africa edited by myself. I hope to have a long and beneficial relationship with all of you – the readers and the advertisers that make this magazine possible. Should you have any ideas, suggestions or some interesting facts to share, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. My contact details are at the bottom of the page and I would love to get some input from the people that count.

And for those of you that are worried that you will never hear from Sami again, please be assured that she is still very much involved in the laboratory industry. After 12 years spent wearing both the editorial and the sales hats, she will be focussing on sales only.

In fact, she’s been extremely involved with the production of this edition and for that I am exceptionally appreciative.

As we go along, you’ll all get to know me better. Those who already know me well will be aware that, where other people spend their spare money on chocolates or clothes or other spoils, I spend mine on books; in particular murder, mystery and crime genre books.

Which is why this article released by the American Chemical Society caught my eye...

Police have long relied on the unique whorls, loops or arches encoded in fingerprints to identify suspects. However, they have no way to tell how long ago those prints were left behind — information that could be crucial to a case. A preliminary new study in ACS’ Analytical Chemistry suggests that could change. Researchers report that it should be possible to link compounds contained in fingerprints with their age.

By determining the age of fingerprints, police would be able to get an idea of who might have been present around the time a crime was committed. This information could, for example, contradict a suspect’s explanation that he or she had visited earlier. Scientists have already begun mining fingerprint residues for clues to the identity of the person who made them, but timing has proven more difficult to reliably pin down.

Notably, past research has shown that a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method succeeded in determining if prints were more or less than eight days old; however, investigators often need more precision. To get a better idea of when prints were deposited, Young Jin Lee and colleagues looked to reactions already suspected to take place in these residues, when ozone in air reacts with unsaturated triacylglycerols left by a fingertip.

Using prints collected from three donors, the researchers tracked shifting levels of triacylglycerols using mass spectrometry imaging, a technique that leaves the evidence intact.

They found they could reliably determine the triacylglycerol degradation rate for each person over the course of seven days. But the rate differed among individuals, with one person’s triacylglycerols declining more gradually than the others. The researchers attribute this difference to higher levels of lipids in the fingerprints of that individual.

The method also worked on residues dusted with forensic powder. The researchers say that although a large-scale study is needed to better understand how lipid levels affect triacylglycerol degradation, this analysis is a first step toward developing a better fingerprint ageing test.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institute of Justice (agency of the U.S. Department
of Justice).

So, there you have it, my crime authors will soon be able to establish who was lying through their teeth earlier in the book and spend less time investigating the wrong person.

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