Researchers expand forensic method to identify people using proteins from bones | 5/22/2018 | Staff
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When a team of researchers led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) developed a new biological identification method that exploits information encoded in proteins, they thought it could have multiple applications.

Nearly two years later, they've turned out to be right.

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In September 2016, LLNL scientists announced they had developed a science-based, statistically validated way to use protein markers from human hair to identify people and link individuals to evidence.

Now they've found a second way to use protein markers from human tissue for identification—this time from bones. Their work is described in a paper published online by Forensic Science International, an Amsterdam-based journal.

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"One of the most exciting aspects of this research is that it seeks to provide a completely new objective methodology for human identification," said LLNL chemist Brad Hart, the director of LLNL's Forensic Science Center and a co-author of the paper.

"It is critical that the forensic science community expand the suite of objective tools available that allow for forensic results to be expressed with statistical rigor. Expanding the proteomic approach to include bone tissue promises greater potential for determining the identity of remains recovered from challenging environments and circumstances."

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The new protein marker technology addresses a 2009 National Research Council report on forensic science that detailed the weaknesses of many current approaches and reported an urgent need for new science-based forensic methods.

Livermore researchers view the protein marker advance as an additional tool for the forensic science community and a complement to DNA, which is the gold standard for human identification, but fragile in several ways.

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"The use of protein markers from human hair and now bones can complement existing techniques based on DNA," said Lab chemist and paper co-author Deon Anex. "It can be especially valuable if DNA is missing or compromised."

Another LLNL team member, biochemist Katelyn Mason, the paper's lead author,...
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