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How Old Were They?

Forensic scientists may soon be able to gauge the age of people involved in an altercation from blood left behind at a crime scene, Discover's D-brief blog reports.

Researchers from the University at Albany report in ACS Central Science that they were able to use Raman spectroscopy to distinguish between blood samples from newborns, adolescents, and adults. In their proof-of-concept study, Albany's Kyle Doty and Igor Lednev collected blood samples from 45 individuals between the ages of less than a year to 68 years old. The Raman spectra obtains from these dried bloodstains were analyzed using an established support vector machines discriminant analysis classification model. Based on this, the researchers could classify the bloodstains as from newborns, adolescents, or adults with 96 percent sensitivity and 97 percent specificity.

However, the researchers caution that their study was small, relied on individuals of European ancestry, and that their adolescent samples were all from boys. All the individuals were also healthy.

Still, if confirmed and developed further, such a test could be a boon for crime scene investigators, D-brief says. "[I]t does point to a potential fast and portable way of narrowing a pool of suspects or victims, making it one more tool available in the 21st century world of crime scene analysis," it adds.