Hair Strands Could Reveal Lifestyle Secrets of Criminals

Apr 05, 2017 10:25 AM EDT

A lot of factors in the body can give away information about victims as well as perpetrators during forensic investigations. These factors are vital to solving crimes. In a recent study, experts say that hair fiber could give crime investigators answers about a perpetrator's past.

The new scientific technique suggests using hair strands to reveal a person's lifestyle. The study will be presented at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Scientists say that in the future, hair strands might eventually tell investigators details about a person's age, sex, body mass, diet and even exercise habits. These are significant information needed to identify suspects.

"Who you are, where you've been, what you eat, what drugs you take, it all shows up in your hair," Glen P. Jackson, Ph.D. said in a statement. "Depending on the question being asked, the chemical analysis of human hair can provide amazing insights into the life and lifestyle of a person."

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Forensic hair analysis was once an important step in identifying suspects, according to a report. However, some find it erroneous and questioned its reliability. It was replaced by DNA sampling that resulted in more accurate findings.

But Jackson believed that hair strands have more to offer. He developed a technique that will help identify lifestyle characteristics of suspects and even victims.

To do that, liquid chromatography supported by isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LC-IRMS) is used. Surprisingly, this method is not too difficult to perform and is now getting popular, bringing back the glory days of hair strands in crime investigations.

Based on the paper, the scientists managed to identify 15 isotope ratio measurements that could potentially result in the determination of lifestyle habits. The theory was tested using hair samples from 20 women in Jordan. As a result, the team found out the body mass index of the participants at 80 percent accuracy.

The researchers said the methodology still needs to be refined for it to be considered fit for crime labs and forensic investigations; nevertheless, the potential is undeniable.

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