A mass spectrometry-based forensic toolbox for imaging and detecting biological fluid evidence in finger marks and fingernail scrapings

Sathisha Kamanna, Julianne Henry, Nicolas H. Voelcker, Adrian Linacre, K. Paul Kirkbride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


During a crime, biological material such as blood or vaginal fluid may become smeared on the fingers of the victim or suspect or trapped under their fingernails. The type of trapped fluid is extremely valuable forensic information. Furthermore, if either person touches an object at the crime scene with their ‘contaminated’ finger then a ‘contaminated’ finger mark may be deposited. Such marks have great value as they could identify not only who deposited the mark but also who they touched and which part of the body they touched. Here, we describe preliminary work towards a ‘toolbox’ of techniques based on mass spectrometry (MS) for the identification of biological fluid traces under fingernails or the imaging of them in finger marks. Liquid chromatography-multidimensional MS was effective for the detection of protein biomarkers characteristic of vaginal fluid and blood trapped under fingernails, even after hands had been washed. In regard to examination of finger marks for the presence of biological fluids, the most practical implementation of any technique is to integrate it with, but after, routine crime scene finger mark enhancement has been applied. Here, we demonstrate the usage of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight-MS for the detection and mapping of proteins and peptides from body fluids in finger marks, including marks enhanced using aluminium-containing magnetic powder and then ‘lifted’ with adhesive tape. Hitherto, only small molecules have been detected in enhanced, lifted marks. In a novel development, aluminium in the enhancement powder assisted ionization of small molecules in finger marks to the extent that conventional matrix was not required for MS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1413-1422
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • Cornulin
  • Fingerprint
  • Haemoglobin
  • Proteins

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