Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Smell Of Death' Research Could Help Recover Bodies In Disasters And Solve Crimes

Date:
August 17, 2009
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
In an advance toward the first portable device for detecting human bodies buried in disasters and at crime scenes, scientists are reporting early results from a project to establish the chemical fingerprint of death. The study could also lead to an electronic device that could determine the time elapsed since death quickly, accurately and onsite.

Researchers say that a chemical profile of decomposition could eventually lead to a portable device for detecting human bodies at crime scenes and disaster areas.
Credit: Adam Dylewski, American Chemical Society

In an advance toward the first portable device for detecting human bodies buried in disasters and at crime scenes, scientists today report early results from a project to establish the chemical fingerprint of death. Speaking at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they said a profile of the chemicals released from decomposing bodies could also lead to a valuable new addition to the forensic toolkit: An electronic device that could determine the time elapsed since death quickly, accurately and onsite.

Today, cadaver dogs are the gold standard for detecting and recovering bodies in earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. "These dogs are highly effective, but it takes lots of time, expense and manpower to train them. If there was a device that was as effective for a fraction of the cost, that would be something worth pursuing," says Dan Sykes, Ph.D., collaborating on this research with graduate student Sarah A. Jones.

To develop such a device, scientists must identify what gases are released as bodies decompose under a variety of natural environmental conditions, Jones noted. In addition, they must detail the time sequence in which those odorant chemicals are released in the hours and days after death.

"What we're looking for is the profile of what gases are released when we die, as well as how the environment and the manner in which we die affects this profile," Jones says.

Decomposing bodies release more than 30 compounds. Some, like the aptly-named "putrescine" and "cadaverine," develop early in the decomposition process. Past studies used donated human bodies that were two to three days old. As a result, these studies were unable to detect putrescine, cadaverine, and other compounds that appear very early in the decomposition process. Jones and Sykes side- stepped that problem by using pigs euthanized under humane conditions to study decomposition immediately after death.

"Pigs are good models for this research," Jones says. "They go through the same phases of decomposition as humans, as well as the same number of stages. And those stages last about as long in pigs as they do in humans before complete decomposition occurs and only the bones remain."

Sykes and Jones placed dead pigs in specially designed odor-collecting units under a variety of environmental conditions. Above each specimen, they affixed special sensors known as solid phase micro extraction (SPME) fibers to capture the gases. These specially-coated fibers are widely used to sample chemical composition of air. Jones and Sykes collected odor data every six to 12 hours over the course of a week.

Studying the week's worth of odor data, a clear chemical profile emerged. "In days one through three, we found precursors to indole, which is a really good sign. On day three, we found indole and putrescine, the main compounds that we were trying to detect," Jones says. They now are capturing gases released in a variety of other scenarios to re-construct the different ways human bodies could decompose, creating a more complete picture of decomposition.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "'Smell Of Death' Research Could Help Recover Bodies In Disasters And Solve Crimes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090816211837.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2009, August 17). 'Smell Of Death' Research Could Help Recover Bodies In Disasters And Solve Crimes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090816211837.htm
American Chemical Society. "'Smell Of Death' Research Could Help Recover Bodies In Disasters And Solve Crimes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090816211837.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins