U.S. Energy Department scientists say a new method of analyzing genetic mutations in proteins in human hair could lead to the first forensic technique other than DNA profiling that could reliably match biological evidence to a single person with scientific precision.
In results published Wednesday, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California said their early study — using hairs recovered from 76 living people and six sets of skeletal remains from London dating to the 1750s — shows the promise of hair “proteomics,” or the study of proteins that genes produce.
“We are in a very similar place with protein-based identification to where DNA profiling was during the early days of its development,” said Brad Hart, director of the national laboratory’s Forensic Science Center and co-author of the study with lead researcher Glendon Parker. “This method will be a game-changer for forensics,” Hart said, while cautioning that many steps remain before it is validated.
If borne out, independent experts said, hair protein analysis could address concerns about the reliability of visual comparisons of hair strands, a technique whose subjectivity has opened it to criticism that experts’ claims were frequently being overstated. Source – Has DNA met its match as a forensic tool?