We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data. We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.


Bloodstains at Crime Scenes Can Now be Used to Determine Age of Suspect

Listen with
Register for free to listen to this article
Thank you. Listen to this article using the player above.

Want to listen to this article for FREE?

Complete the form below to unlock access to ALL audio articles.

Read time: 1 minute

From the spatter analysis made famous in the TV show Dexter to the frequent DNA profiling of CSI and the real cases covered in the FBI Files, blood tests are ubiquitous in forensic science. Now, researchers report in ACS Central Science that a new blood test, which could be performed at a crime scene, could help determine the age of a suspect or victim within just an hour.

Despite their usefulness, current blood tests that analyze samples from crime scenes have limitations. Many tests cannot be completed in the field, some take a long time, and others can destroy the sample. Typically, DNA and fingerprint analyses both require that the person of interest is included in a database. And even if the person’s information is in a database, some characteristics like age cannot be determined by conventional DNA profiling or fingerprint analysis. To estimate age, one would ideally monitor something that changes over the course of a lifetime. Some components of blood (particularly the structure of hemoglobin that gives blood its characteristic red color) fit the bill. A technique called Raman spectroscopy provides information about the chemical composition and molecular structure of material. Thus, Igor Lednev and colleagues wanted to see whether they could use this method to analyze blood components to determine the ages of victims and suspects.

By performing Raman spectroscopy on samples from human donors, the researchers looked at samplesfrom three different age groups: newborns (under one year), adolescents (approximately 11 to 13 years of age) or adults (43 to 68 years old). The researchers could distinguish between the groups – adolescent and adult samples were differentiated with greater than 99 percent accuracy, and there were no errors in the identifications of the newborn samples. Because the method is a non-destructive technique that requires no sample preparation, the authors say this could be a useful on-site addition to the current cohort of available tests. In the future, they plan to refine their model to provide more specific ages, not just large age ranges, of the donors.

The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. Department of Justice.

This article has been republished from materials provided by ACS. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.


Kyle C. Doty, Igor K. Lednev. Differentiating Donor Age Groups Based on Raman Spectroscopy of Bloodstains for Forensic Purposes. ACS Central Science, 2018; DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.8b00198