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Death investigators may soon be able to rely on tiny insect eggs to rapidly estimate a corpse's time-of-death.
Blow flies are typically the first carrion insects to arrive and lay their eggs on a dead body. For forensic entomologists, determining the arrival order and growth rate of different species of blow fly eggs found on a corpse can help establish the body's time-of-death to within a few hours.
Issue - Blow - Fly - Eggs - Microscopic
The issue? Blow fly eggs are microscopic and not easy to differentiate. It can take days, or even several weeks, for experts to accurately classify them. In fact, it is still common practice to take eggs from a corpse and grow them to adults just to identify the species.
University at Albany organic chemist Rabi Musah wants to make the process easier.
Entomologist - Jennifer - Rosati - John - Jay
She's teamed up with forensic entomologist Jennifer Rosati of John Jay College and UAlbany graduate researcher Justine Giffen to develop a three-minute chemical analysis. It relies on mass spectrometry – the determination of masses of molecules within a sample – to rapidly classify blow fly eggs by species based on differences in their amino acid profiles.
Their findings were published this month in Analytical Chemistry and featured by Chemical & Engineering News.
Analysis - Demonstration - Method - Blow - Fly
"Our analysis is the first demonstration of a rapid chemical fingerprint-based method for blow fly species identification from eggs," Musah said. "Differentiating insect eggs on corpses is of great forensic importance. Each species has its own development timeline, and therefore species identification of entomological evidence such as eggs can allow...
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