Monday, March 22, 2010

Caught by Cultures

Dusting for fingerprints is soooo last century. Alright, so maybe not. But there is a new technique for catching the bad guys. Bacterial fingerprinting - using the collections of bacteria that criminals leave behind on the objects with which they come into contact. Since the human body is a veritable cornucopia of bacterial diversity, even after a scrubbing, it isn't surprising that we leave some of the little critters in our wakes. A recent article in PNAS described how this bacteria could be used forensically. University of Boulder Colorado scientist Noah Fierer and his colleagues took swabs from computer mice and keyboards and produced genetic profiles of the bacteria present. From these data the researchers were able to pick, out of more than 250 possible pairs of hands, the owner of a particular computer. Of course, more research needs to be done before it is ready for the courtroom, but I predict you'll see it inaccurately portrayed on CSI soon.

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