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 September 30, 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 September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 29, 2014) CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, celebrates 60 years of bringing nations together through science. As Joanna Partridge reports from inside the famous science centre it's also planning to turn the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator back on after an upgrade. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) Researchers from the University of Rochester have created a type of invisibility cloak with simple focal lenses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Corvette Can Secretly Record Convos And Get You Arrested

New Corvette Can Secretly Record Convos And Get You Arrested

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) The 2015 Corvette features valet mode – which allows the owner to secretly record audio and video – but in many states that practice is illegal. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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