I found a pretty interesting article in C&EN about information that can be obtained from fingerprints. We know that fingerprints can be used as clues to a person’s identity, and recently researchers have found that they can also be used to discover a person’s drug habits and potentially his or her medical history. Chemists are reporting that they have discovered ways to detect different types of drugs and their metabolites, such as marijuana, cocaine, etc., in fingerprints. A team at the University of East Anglia, in England, attached antibodies which recognize drug metabolites to iron oxide magnetic particles, which could be used to dust for fingerprints. Another antibody was added to fluoresce which will help recognize drugs and metabolites. Test fingerprints were taken from volunteer drug users at a local clinic and the team was able to successfully identify the drugs in their fingerprints.
I found this article and technique very interesting. I think that it could have applications in forensic science and even in drug testing at sporting events such as the Olympics. The article also stated that at some point it will be possible to known a person’s medical history from his or her fingerprint. This, as well as its drug testing applications, raises some questions about privacy laws. I think that this technology, if used for the correct purposes and not for exploitation, can be a convenience tool for forensic scientists.