It isnt merely the stuff you get up to on your phone that canreveal your dirtiest secrets, its also the chemicals, molecules, and microbes on them.
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that researchers can identify a persons lifestyle based on the molecule tracings left on an everyday object. This includes their diet, if theyre on drug, their choice of soap or moisturizer, whether theyre ill, where theyve been, and a handful of other personal habits.
You can imagine a scenario where international crimes scene researcher arrives across a personal object like a phone, pen or key without fingerprints or DNA, or with publishes or DNA not found in the database. They would have nothing to go on to determine who that belongs to, seniorauthor Pieter Dorrestein, a prof at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said in astatement. So we guessed what if we take advantage of left-behind scalp chemistry to tell us what kind of lifestyle this person has?
They set their highly sensitive technique of mass spectrometry to the test by gathering 39 participants and swapping four places on each of their phones andeight spots on each of their hands. They then paired these results with a crowdsourced database of chemical structures from commercial products and medicines.
Although they couldnt create one-to-one matches like fingerprints or DNA evidence, they created a personalized lifestyle read-out from each telephone. This picked up on things such as if they had used anti-fungal scalp creams, hair loss therapies, eye drops-off, or antidepressants. It even managed to tell if they had use sunblock or insect repellent in the past few months.
“By investigating the molecules theyve left behind on their phones, we could tell if a person is likely female, employs high-end cosmetics, dyes her hair, beverages coffee, favors brew over wine, likes spicy food, is being treated for depression, wears sunscreen and bug spraying and therefore likely expends a lot of time outdoors all kinds of things, added first author Amina Bouslimani.
Not merely that, but thechemicals on the participants’ hands could matched to their individual devices. In 69 percent of the cases we could perfectly match up the chemical profile, the molecular profile, on the phone to the person that it belonged to, said Dorrestein.
This technique has its obvious applications in forensics and police work, like detecting traces of handguns, explosives, or illegal drugs. However, the researchers also hope it could be used in medical and environmental analyses. For instance, it could test for a persons exposure to environmental pollutants or chemical hazards. It could also assess how people are metabolizing medications during clinicaltrials.