A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-led interdisciplinary research team has developed the first-ever biological identification method that exploits the information encoded in proteins of human hair.
A colorized scanning electron micrograph of human hair. Image credit: Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory, University of Alabama at Birmingham.
They believe that the number of individual protein markers that can be used to differentiate people could go as high as 1,000.
“Although people do not inherit proteins, they do inherit the DNA that produces their proteins,” explained team member Dr. Deon Anex, also from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“As a result, there is a link between the protein markers that we find and a person’s DNA. There are two reasons why this is particularly important: the DNA is unique to each individual and it is inherited from a person’s parents.”
The new identification technique using protein could offer another tool to law enforcement authorities for crime scene investigations and to archaeologists.
“We are in a very similar place with protein-based identification to where DNA profiling was during the early days of its development,” Dr. Hart said.
“This method will be a game-changer for forensics, and while we’ve made a lot of progress toward proving it, there are steps to go before this new technique will be able to reach its full potential.”
This work is described in a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Parker G.J. et al. 2016. Demonstration of Protein-Based Human Identification Using the Hair Shaft Proteome. PLoS ONE 11 (9): e0160653; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160653
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