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Glowing jellyfish protein lights the way for better lifting of fingerprints

Accepted submission by taylorvich at 2024-02-28 14:57:32
Science []

An experimental new forensic spray allows latent fingerprints to be made visible in just 10 seconds, plus it doesn't require the use of any messy powders. What it does incorporate, however, is a glowing protein that's obtained from jellyfish.

Current methods of lifting fingerprints from crime scenes utilize fine powders or fuming chemical reagents. In both cases, obtaining a usable print takes at least a few minutes. Additionally, compounds in the powders or reagents may damage DNA in the sweat or skin oil that makes up the print.

Scientists from Britain's University of Bath and China's Shanghai Normal University have now come up with an alternative, in the form of the new non-toxic, water-soluble spray.

As soon as the spray has been applied to a surface, the positively-charged dye molecules bind with negatively-charged fatty or amino acid molecules in the fingerprint sweat or oil. The dye molecules are then "locked in place" along all the telltale whorls and ridges of the print.

Both dyes are derived from a substance produced by jellyfish, called Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). That protein is already widely used in scientific studies to visualize biological processes, without affecting those processes. It likewise doesn't affect the DNA which may be present in fingerprints.

When exposed to blue light, those molecules fluoresce in their yellow or red color within no more than 10 seconds. A smartphone camera can then be used to record their images for subsequent reference.

There are actually two versions of it containing two different dyes, namely LFP-Yellow and LFP-Red. Users choose one or the other depending on the color of the surface from which they're lifting prints, so that the prints really stand out against their background when made visible.

Original Submission