WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Certain proteins in the hair can be used alongside DNA in forensics and archeology, researchers report.
DNA is unique to each person but can degrade over time. These hair proteins are more stable than DNA, and can help with human identification, the researchers said.
The investigators at the U.S. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory analyzed hair samples, some up to 250 years old, from six dead people, and hair samples from 76 living people.
They said they've discovered 185 hair proteins that could identify one person out of a million, according to the study.
With further research, the study authors hope to pinpoint a set of about 100 hair proteins that could distinguish one person from everyone else in the world.
The study findings were published Sept. 7 in the journal PLoS One.
"We are in a very similar place with protein-based identification to where DNA profiling was during the early days of its development," study co-author Brad Hart, director of the Forensic Science Center at Livermore, said in a journal news release.
"This method will be a game-changer for forensics, and while we've made a lot of progress toward proving it, there are steps to go before this new technique will be able to reach its full potential," Hart said.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has more on forensic anthropology.