Forensic Analysis


Application of MALDI MS Imaging to Forensic Science

It is essential that forensic researchers utilize highly effective analytical techniques that produce results with the highest level of confidence so that evidence can be upheld in court.  Thanks to the large dynamic range of MALDI Mass Spectrometers, researchers are able to analyze a wide range of compounds in unknown samples.  Information on both endogenous and exogenous compounds can be obtained in a single experiment without extensive sample separation and preparation.

MALDI MS, a Natural Fit for Forensic Labs

Forensic labs already rely heavily on Mass Spectrometry (MS) to analyze trace compounds on solid samples (e.g.:  GC/MS analysis of explosives) or body fluids (e.g.: LC/MS analysis of urine and blood for drug of abuse detection), and such test results, are fully acceptable in court.  Forensic labs also rely routinely on DNA test kits to match suspects with crime scene evidence.  MALDI Mass Spectrometry, with its ability to directly analyze intact bio-molecules that contain genetic information (e.g.: proteins), as well as a wide range of other chemicals, is therefore, a natural fit for forensic labs. 

The Power of MALDI MS Imaging

Scientists began applying MALDI MS Imaging to the analysis of forensic evidence and are now able to obtain new types of valuable information.  In a recent study, Dr Simona Francese at Sheffield-Hallam University (UK), working within the team of Professor Malcolm Clench, has used MALDI MS Imaging to capture fingerprint ridge patterns simultaneous to the detection of embedded compounds.  The study shows how the analytical power of mass spectrometry can be used in sexual assault cases to detect both endogenous species (e.g.: oleic acid), as well as exogenous species (e.g.: condoms lubricants) in fingerprints, and consequently, can link a suspect to a crime scene and other criminal misconduct.

Related Scientific Papers

A novel matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging based methodology for the identification of sexual assault suspects
Robert Bradshaw1, Rosalind Wolstenholme1, Robert D. Blackledge2, Malcolm R. Clench1, Leesa S. Ferguson1 and Simona Francese1
1Sheffield Hallam University, Biomedical Research Centre, Howard Street, Sheffield S1 1WB, UK
2Formerly of the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Regional Forensic Laboratory, San Diego, CA, USA
Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 2011, 25, pages 415–422
Study of latent fingermarks by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging of endogenous lipids
Rosalind Wolstenholme, Robert Bradshaw, Malcolm R. Clench and Simona Francese
Biomedical Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, Sheffield S1 1WB, UK
Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 2009, Issue 19, pages 3031-3039