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Grants boost NIU chemist’s work to help CSIs

December 17, 2013
NIU Professor Oliver Hofstetter

NIU Professor Oliver Hofstetter

NIU Chemistry and Biochemistry professor Oliver Hofstetter will continue his collaboration with Australian universities and police departments, developing antibodies for use in the visualization of latent fingerprints.

Professor Hofstetter and his colleagues received about $330,000 in grants – $240,000 from the Australian Research Council and another for $90,000 from the Defence Science & Technology Organisation, a part of the Australian Department of Defence.

The collaboration is a continuation of earlier research performed by Hofstetter and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Hofstetter’s Australian research counterpart and lead investigator is Claude Roux, director of the UTS Centre for Forensic Science.

The new fingerprinting method is intended to make possible the recovery of otherwise unusable or undetected prints from old evidence and from non-porous surfaces.

Latent fingermarks from a male donor developed on aluminium foil.<br />(Image provided by Xanthe Spindler)

Latent fingermarks from a male donor developed on aluminium foil.
(Image provided by Xanthe Spindler)

The method employs antibodies developed by Professor Hofstetter, which are coupled onto gold nanoparticles and applied to a surface of interest. Due to their unsurpassed specificity, the antibodies bind to molecules present in the fingerprints. The prints are then visualized with the help of dyes.

“Our fingerprint detection method enables the visualization of weak fingerprints that are difficult to develop with current techniques,” Hofstetter said. “We will build upon our successful preliminary work with anti-amino acid antibodies and raise additional antibodies that recognize other ubiquitous components of human sweat.”

The research is a step in the pursuit of a reliable method of recovering fingerprints from human skin.