Analysis of fingerprint samples, testing various conditions, for forensic DNA identification

Sci Justice. 2017 Jan;57(1):35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2016.08.009. Epub 2016 Sep 3.


Fingerprints can be of tremendous value for forensic biology, since they can be collected from a wide variety of evident types, such as handles of weapons, tools collected in criminal cases, and objects with no apparent staining. DNA obtained from fingerprints varies greatly in quality and quantity, which ultimately affects the quality of the resulting STR profiles. Additional difficulties can arise when fingerprint samples show mixed STR profiles due to the handling of multiple persons. After applying a tested protocol for sample collection (swabbing with 5% Triton X-100), DNA extraction (using an enzyme that works at elevated temperatures), and PCR amplification (AmpFlSTR® Identifiler® using 31cycles) extensive analysis was performed to better understand the challenges inherent to fingerprint samples, with the ultimate goal of developing valuable profiles (≥50% complete). The impact of time on deposited fingerprints was investigated, revealing that while the quality of profiles deteriorated, full STR profiles could still be obtained from samples after 40days of storage at room temperature. By comparing the STR profiles from fingerprints of the dominant versus the non-dominant hand, we found a slightly better quality from the non-dominant hand, which was not always significant. Substrates seem to have greater effects on fingerprints. Tests on glass, plastic, paper and metal (US Quarter dollar, made of Cu and Ni), common substrates in offices and homes, showed best results for glass, followed by plastic and paper, while almost no profiles were obtained from a Quarter dollar. Important for forensic casework, we also assessed three-person mixtures of touched fingerprint samples. Unlike routinely used approaches for sampling evidence, the surface of an object (bottle) was sectioned into six equal parts and separate samples were taken from each section. The samples were processed separately for DNA extraction and STR amplification. The results included a few single source profiles and distinguishable two person mixtures. On average, this approach led to two profiles ≥50% complete per touched object. Some STR profiles were obtained more than once thereby increasing the confidence.

Keywords: Admixed samples; Fingerprints; Forensic science; Short tandem repeat; Substrates; Touched items.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / isolation & purification*
  • DNA Fingerprinting*
  • Dermatoglyphics*
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Octoxynol
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Specimen Handling
  • Surface Properties
  • Surface-Active Agents


  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Octoxynol
  • DNA