Rethinking Healthcare

Fingerprints reveal drug use

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Did you know that the sweat excreted through your fingertips contains the byproducts from drugs? A handheld device will be able to detect drug use in minutes.

Your fingerprint can now reveal whether or not you’re under the influence of drugs. And in mere minutes.

Holy cow. This new handheld device can be used by police to detect the broken down byproducts from drugs that end up excreted through the sweat pores in your fingertips, New Scientist reports.

The new tech was developed by Paul Yates and colleagues from Intelligent Fingerprinting, originally based out of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

  1. The device applies gold nanoparticles coated with antibodies (the proteins used by the immune system to neutralize invaders) to a fingerprint.
  2. More specifically, antibodies stick to antigens (the foreign molecules that trigger immune responses). And those antigens are on specific metabolites, the byproducts of metabolism.
  3. Fluorescent dyes attached to the antibodies are used to highlight the presence of any metabolites of drugs.

The technique – called illicit drug assays – was first used to detect nicotine, but now works on a range of drugs, including cocaine, methadone, and cannabis.

Until now, according to Yates, it’s hard to prove that someone is driving under the influence. Existing drug driving tests are invasive, can be easily contaminated, or aren't sensitive enough.

The new device, on the other hand, could detect nanograms of metabolites in minutes, he says. It should be available this year.

The work was announced at the University College London International Crime Science Conference in London this month.

Via New Scientist.

Image: Intelligent Fingerprinting

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure