Recent Advances in Forensic Scientific Research

Forensic pathologists collect and analyze evidence during a criminal investigation to identify victims, determine the cause of death, and determine “who did it.” Below are some recent articles from ACS journals reporting new advances that could help forensic scientists solve crimes. Journalists can request free access to these articles by emailing newsroom@acs.org.

“Insights of the differential preservation of bone proteomes in interred and buried cadavers from Italian forensic records”
Proteome Research Journal
March 22, 2022
Bone proteins can help determine how long a person has been dead (post-mortem interval, PMI) and how old they were when they died (age at death, AAD), but levels of these proteins can vary depending on burial conditions. By comparing the bone proteomes of exhumed individuals who had been buried in mausoleums or buried in the ground, the researchers found several proteins whose levels were unaffected by the burial environment, which they believe could help in estimating AAD or PMI.

“Carbon dot powders with crosslinking-based long-wavelength emission for multi-color imaging of latent fingerprints”
ACS Applied Nanomaterials
January 21, 2022
For decades, criminal investigators have recognized the importance of analyzing latent fingerprints left at crime scenes to help identify a perpetrator, but current methods of making those fingerprints visible have limitations, including low contrast, low sensitivity and high toxicity. These researchers have developed a simple way to make fluorescent carbon dot powders that can be applied to latent fingerprints, causing them to fluoresce under UV light with red, orange and yellow colors.

“Proteomics offers new clues for forensic investigations”
AEC Core Sciences
October 18, 2021
This review article describes how forensic pathologists are now turning their attention to proteins in bone, blood, or other biological samples, which can sometimes answer questions that DNA cannot. For example, unlike DNA, a person’s complement of proteins (or proteomes) changes over time, providing important clues about when a person died and their age at death.

“MasSpec Pen integration with sub-atmospheric pressure chemical ionization for rapid chemical analysis and forensic applications
Analytical Chemistry
May 19, 2021
These researchers previously developed a “MasSpec Pen”, a portable device integrated with a mass spectrometer for the direct analysis and molecular profiling of biological samples. In this paper, they develop a new version that can quickly and easily detect and measure compounds, including cocaine, oxycodone, and explosives, which may be important in forensic investigations.

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