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Forensic Practices and Innovations: Instrumental Analyses, Data Correlations, Legislative Comments, and Case Studies

A special issue of Molecules (ISSN 1420-3049). This special issue belongs to the section "Analytical Chemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2023) | Viewed by 21284

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Pharmacy, University of G. d'Annunzio Chieti and Pescara, 66100 Chieti, Italy
Interests: innovative (micro) extraction procedures (MEPS, FPSE, DLLME, SULLE, MAE, etc.) and hyphenated instrument configurations; bioactive compounds (drugs, drugs associations, and natural bioactive compounds); characterization, fingerprints, and method validation; HPLC; mass spectrometry (MS and MS/MS)
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Guest Editor
Department of Pharmacy, University “G. d'Annunzio” of Chieti-Pescara, Via dei Vestini 31, 66100 Chieti, Italy
Interests: sample preparation; biological matrices; bioanalysis; microextraction procedures; separation techniques; chromatography
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International Forensic Research Institute, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA
Interests: chromatographic stationary phases; substrate-free solid-phase extraction sorbents; molecular imprinting technology; sorbents for environmental pollution remediation; miniaturized sample preparation devices; field deployable sample preparation technology
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Department of Medicine and Aging Sciences, Section of Legal Medicine, University of Chieti–Pescara “G. d’Annunzio”, Via dei Vestini, 31, I-66100 Chieti, Italy
Interests: medical professional liability; forensic dentistry; forensic pathology (in particular sudden deaths) and autoptic technique; histopathological and immunohistochemical sciences; forensic genetics; forensic toxicology; forensic pharmacology and applied analytical chemistry; study of inflammatory processes
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IRCCS Neurological Institute Foundation Carlo Besta, Laboratory of Neurological Biochemistry and Neuropharmacology, Via Celoria 11, I-20133 Milan, Italy
Interests: antiepileptics and benzodiazepines; pharmacokinetics and toxicology; microsampling; saliva and liquor matrices; cannabinoids and TDM

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Guest Editor
Pharmatoxicology Laboratory—Hospital “Santo Spirito”, Via Fonte Romana 8, I-65124 Pescara, Italy
Interests: dosages of drugs, toxicological and alcohol screening also on alternative matrices (hair, hair, saliva, sweat and various), with tests carried out on high performance analytical systems, and of the latest generation; confirmatory analysis with chromatographic systems LC-MS/MS, GC-MS and HPLC for drugs, acute and chronic abuse of alcohol, biogenic amines, drugs, occupational toxicology and various analytes

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Guest Editor
Department of Chemistry, "Sapienza" University of Rome, P.le Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy
Interests: chemometrics; forensic analysis; microNIR spectroscopy; thermal analysis; clinical and biomedical applications
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There are serious concerns about the widespread use of new drugs (NPS—New Psychoactive Substances) and the consumption of illicit substances that, although currently stable, shows high percentages due to the increases recorded in the late 1990s. NPS play an increasingly important role in this area, as they are often difficult to detect with the conventional screening procedures currently available to police. This implies a negative result in screening tests even if the subject has made use of illicit substances. This field also includes routine analyses regarding the presence of alcohol and/or other drugs often found during normal checks and during autopsies, as well as the possibility of correlating the concentrations of the same analyte in matrices other than those of choice for medicolegal purposes.

Today, we are witnessing an incredible increase in interest in the field of Forensic Sciences, the possible applications of new instrumental configurations techniques and sample treatment, statistical/chemometric approaches, legal implications, analysis on unconventional samples, and a possible correlation between analyte concentrations detected in different matrices.

This Special Issue aims to collect the state-of-the-art on the main topics in the Forensic field: hyphenated techniques and instrument configurations, innovative sample treatment procedures, forensic analysis, legislative comments, nonconventional matrix analysis, new psychoactive substances, chemometric approaches, and social situations. The aim is to produce a collection/commentary that can make even non-experts understand the application potential of the innovations obtained in this area and, if necessary, apply and extend them to other fields. In order not to limit the types of publications and to provide a more detailed panorama of the topic, original papers, reviews, short communications, notes, commentaries, case studies and application notes will be accepted. In particular, “case studies” can be a sort of short communication where the authors directly report a practical case where, perhaps, they have applied innovative approaches to solve the problem. “Legislative comments” refer to a series of articles where laboratory experts comment on the problems encountered in reconciling what the law requires with what can be done in the laboratory, as well as suggesting possible meeting points.

This Special Issue is supported by the Sample Preparation Task Force and Network, of the European Chemical Society-Division of Analytical Chemistry (https://www.sampleprep.tuc.gr/en/home/).

Prof. Dr. Abuzar Kabir
Prof. Dr. Marcello Locatelli
Dr. Roberta Risoluti
Dr. Angela Tartaglia
Dr. Cristian D’Ovidio
Dr. Ugo De Grazia
Dr. Fabio Savini
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Molecules is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Hyphenated techniques and instrument configurations
  • Innovative sample treatment procedures
  • Forensic analyses
  • Legislative comments
  • Nonconventional matrix analysis
  • New psychoactive substances
  • Chemometric approaches
  • Social situation.

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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9 pages, 654 KiB  
Communication
Amphetamine-Related Fatalities and Altered Brain Chemicals: A Preliminary Investigation Using the Comparative Toxicogenomic Database
by Murad Tumayhi, David Banji, Ibrahim Khardali, Otilia J. F. Banji, Saeed Alshahrani, Saad S. Alqahtani, Safiah Muqri, Amal Abdullah, Wedad Sherwani and Ibraheem Attafi
Molecules 2023, 28(12), 4787; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules28124787 - 15 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1327
Abstract
Amphetamine is a psychostimulant drug with a high risk of toxicity and death when misused. Abuse of amphetamines is associated with an altered organic profile, which includes omega fatty acids. Low omega fatty acid levels are linked to mental disorders. Using the Comparative [...] Read more.
Amphetamine is a psychostimulant drug with a high risk of toxicity and death when misused. Abuse of amphetamines is associated with an altered organic profile, which includes omega fatty acids. Low omega fatty acid levels are linked to mental disorders. Using the Comparative Toxicogenomic Database (CTD), we investigated the chemical profile of the brain in amphetamine-related fatalities and the possibility of neurotoxicity. We classified amphetamine cases as low (0–0.5 g/mL), medium (>0.5 to 1.5 g/mL), and high (>1.5 g/mL), based on amphetamine levels in brain samples. All three groups shared 1-octadecene, 1-tridecene, 2,4-di-tert-butylphenol, arachidonic acid (AA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosane, and oleylamide. We identified chemical–disease associations using the CTD tools and predicted an association between DHA, AA and curated conditions like autistic disorder, disorders related to cocaine, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive dysfunction. An amphetamine challenge may cause neurotoxicity in the human brain due to a decrease in omega-3 fatty acids and an increase in oxidative products. Therefore, in cases of amphetamine toxicity, a supplement therapy may be needed to prevent omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. Full article
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20 pages, 14914 KiB  
Article
Human Remains Identification Using Micro-CT, Chemometric and AI Methods in Forensic Experimental Reconstruction of Dental Patterns after Concentrated Sulphuric Acid Significant Impact
by Andrej Thurzo, Viera Jančovičová, Miroslav Hain, Milan Thurzo, Bohuslav Novák, Helena Kosnáčová, Viera Lehotská, Ivan Varga, Peter Kováč and Norbert Moravanský
Molecules 2022, 27(13), 4035; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27134035 - 23 Jun 2022
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 3229
Abstract
(1) Teeth, in humans, represent the most resilient tissues. However, exposure to concentrated acids might lead to their dissolving, thus making human identification difficult. Teeth often contain dental restorations from materials that are even more resilient to acid impact. This paper aims to [...] Read more.
(1) Teeth, in humans, represent the most resilient tissues. However, exposure to concentrated acids might lead to their dissolving, thus making human identification difficult. Teeth often contain dental restorations from materials that are even more resilient to acid impact. This paper aims to introduce a novel method for the 3D reconstruction of dental patterns as a crucial step for the digital identification of dental records. (2) With a combination of modern methods, including micro-computed tomography, cone-beam computer tomography, and attenuated total reflection, in conjunction with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and artificial intelligence convolutional neural network algorithms, this paper presents a method for 3D-dental-pattern reconstruction, and human remains identification. Our research studies the morphology of teeth, bone, and dental materials (amalgam, composite, glass-ionomer cement) under different periods of exposure to 75% sulfuric acid. (3) Our results reveal a significant volume loss in bone, enamel, dentine, as well as glass-ionomer cement. The results also reveal a significant resistance by the composite and amalgam dental materials to the impact of sulfuric acid, thus serving as strong parts in the dental-pattern mosaic. This paper also probably introduces the first successful artificial intelligence application in automated-forensic-CBCT segmentation. (4) Interdisciplinary cooperation, utilizing the mentioned technologies, can solve the problem of human remains identification with a 3D reconstruction of dental patterns and their 2D projections over existing ante-mortem records. Full article
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16 pages, 3412 KiB  
Article
SALDI Substrate-Based FeNi Magnetic Alloy Nanoparticles for Forensic Analysis of Poisons in Human Serum
by Sara A. Al-Sayed, Mohamed O. Amin and Entesar Al-Hetlani
Molecules 2022, 27(9), 2720; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27092720 - 23 Apr 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1672
Abstract
In this study, FeNi magnetic alloy nanoparticles (MANPs) were employed for the forensic analysis of four poisons—dimethametryn, napropamide, thiodicarb, and strychnine—using surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (SALDI-MS). FeNi MANPs were prepared via coprecipitation using two reducing agents, sodium borohydride (NaBH4) and [...] Read more.
In this study, FeNi magnetic alloy nanoparticles (MANPs) were employed for the forensic analysis of four poisons—dimethametryn, napropamide, thiodicarb, and strychnine—using surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (SALDI-MS). FeNi MANPs were prepared via coprecipitation using two reducing agents, sodium borohydride (NaBH4) and hydrazine monohydrate (N2H4·H2O), to optimize the prepared MANPs and investigate their effect on the performance of SALDI-MS analysis. Thereafter, SALDI-MS analysis was carried out for the detection of three pesticides and a rodenticide. The prepared substrate offered sensitive detection of the targeted analytes with LOD values of 1 ng/mL, 100 pg/mL, 10 ng/mL, and 200 ng/mL for dimethametryn, napropamide, thiodicarb, and strychnine, respectively. The relative standard deviation (%RSD) values were in the range of 2.30–13.97% for the pesticides and 15–23.81% for strychnine, demonstrating the good spot-to-spot reproducibility of the FeNi substrate. Finally, the MANPs were successfully employed in the analysis of poison-spiked blood serum using a minute quantity of the sample with an LOD of 700 ng/mL dimethametryn and napropamide, 800 ng/mL thiodicarb, and 500 ng/mL strychnine. This study has great potential regarding the analysis of several poisons that may be found in human serum, which is significant in cases of self-harm. Full article
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10 pages, 603 KiB  
Article
Forensic Analysis and Identification Processes in Mass Disasters: Explosion of Gun Powder in the Fireworks Factory
by Maricla Marrone, Francesca Tarantino, Alessandra Stellacci, Stefania Lonero Baldassarra, Gerardo Cazzato, Francesco Vinci and Alessandro Dell’Erba
Molecules 2022, 27(1), 244; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27010244 - 31 Dec 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2965
Abstract
A mass disaster is a situation that involves criticality between the number of victims and resources, in terms of both men and means, present on the site of an event that is mostly unexpected and sudden. In the multidisciplinary teams that intervene, the [...] Read more.
A mass disaster is a situation that involves criticality between the number of victims and resources, in terms of both men and means, present on the site of an event that is mostly unexpected and sudden. In the multidisciplinary teams that intervene, the role of forensic pathologists, who are responsible for the direction and coordination of post-mortem operations, is central, and must remain so. The authors report the case of an explosion of a pyrotechnic artifice factory, as a result of which numerous victims and injuries are recorded. So, the team completed the autopsies and created a protocol to obtain biological samples (bones, blood, teeth, muscles), while the forensic pathologists contacted the families of the alleged victims and each provided a blood sample that was collected for the DNA. The geneticist, using the method of gene extraction and amplification, obtained the DNA from each bone, tooth, and muscle of blood taken from the victims and then compared it with that extracted from the blood samples of the relatives; the electropherograms showed at least one allele for each genetic marker of the “Combined DNA Index System” in common between the victims and the families, thus allowing to establish the identity of all the subjects involved in the event. Having established the identity of all workers, it was possible to determine their whereabouts in the environment at the time of the location of fires and explosions. The results of the various forensic analyzes (autopsies, genetic investigations and even traumatological investigations) have allowed us to validate a scientific method useful in all mass disasters even when any type of anthropological or forensic dental research is difficult. Full article
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9 pages, 1435 KiB  
Article
Short and Long Time Bloodstains Age Determination by Colorimetric Analysis: A Pilot Study
by Alessandro Marrone, Daniele La Russa, Alberto Montesanto, Vincenzo Lagani, Mauro F. La Russa and Daniela Pellegrino
Molecules 2021, 26(20), 6272; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26206272 - 16 Oct 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2554
Abstract
Bloodstains found at crime scenes represent a crucial source of information for investigative purposes. However, in forensic practice, no technique is currently used to estimate the time from deposition of bloodstains. This preliminary study focuses on the age estimation of bloodstains by exploiting [...] Read more.
Bloodstains found at crime scenes represent a crucial source of information for investigative purposes. However, in forensic practice, no technique is currently used to estimate the time from deposition of bloodstains. This preliminary study focuses on the age estimation of bloodstains by exploiting the color variations over time due to the oxidation of the blood. For this purpose, we used a colorimetric methodology in order to easily obtain objective, univocal and reproducible results. We developed two bloodstain age prediction algorithms: a short-term and a long-term useful model for the first 24h and 60 days, respectively. Both models showed high levels of classification accuracy, particularly for the long-term model. Although a small-scale study, these results improve the potential application of colorimetric analysis in the time-line reconstruction of violent criminal events. Full article
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9 pages, 680 KiB  
Article
Ethanol Determination in Post-Mortem Samples: Correlation between Blood and Vitreous Humor Concentration
by Fabio Savini, Angela Tartaglia, Ludovica Coccia, Danilo Palestini, Cristian D’Ovidio, Ugo de Grazia, Giuseppe Maria Merone, Elisa Bassotti and Marcello Locatelli
Molecules 2020, 25(12), 2724; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25122724 - 12 Jun 2020
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 5084
Abstract
Ethanol (ethylic alcohol) represents the most commonly used drug worldwide and is often involved in clinical and forensic toxicology. Based on several reports, excessive alcohol consumption is the main contributing factor in traffic accidents, drownings, suicides, and other crimes. For these reasons, it [...] Read more.
Ethanol (ethylic alcohol) represents the most commonly used drug worldwide and is often involved in clinical and forensic toxicology. Based on several reports, excessive alcohol consumption is the main contributing factor in traffic accidents, drownings, suicides, and other crimes. For these reasons, it becomes essential to analyze the alcohol concentration during autopsy. Although blood is usually used for alcohol analysis in post-mortem cases, it could suffer alterations, putrefaction, and microbial contaminations. As an alternative to whole blood, vitreous humor has been successfully used in medico-legal studies. In this work, post-mortem specimens were analyzed for ethanol determination. The analysis of blood and vitreous humor were carried-out using gas chromatography-flame ionized detector (GC-FID) with a total run time of 6 min. The method was validated in terms of limit of detection, limit of quantification, dynamic range, sensibility, recovery, precision and trueness. A linear regression analysis indicated a coefficient of determination (R2) of 0.9981. The study confirmed no statistically differences between alcohol concentration in blood and vitreous humor, leading vitreous humor as an excellent matrix that could be used as an alternative to whole blood in toxicological analysis in cases where blood is not available. Full article
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Review

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12 pages, 417 KiB  
Review
Forensic Biochemical Markers to Evaluate the Agonal Period: A Literature Review
by Enrica Rosato, Martina Bonelli, Marcello Locatelli, Ugo de Grazia, Angela Tartaglia, Fabio Savini and Cristian D'Ovidio
Molecules 2021, 26(11), 3259; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26113259 - 28 May 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2983
Abstract
Currently, forensic research is multidisciplinary with new methods and parameters useful to define the cause and time of death as well as survival/agony times. The identification of biochemical markers able to estimate agonal period has been studied by many forensic researchers. It is [...] Read more.
Currently, forensic research is multidisciplinary with new methods and parameters useful to define the cause and time of death as well as survival/agony times. The identification of biochemical markers able to estimate agonal period has been studied by many forensic researchers. It is known that the estimation of agonal time in different types of death is not always easy, hence our interest in literature’s data. The studies analyzed in this review confirm the important role of thanatobiochemistry for the estimation of survival times. Regardless of the death cause, the survival/agony time between the primary event and death influences markers concentrations in biological samples (e.g., blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid). Different biomarkers can be used for qualitative evaluations in deaths with short and long agony (e.g., C-reactive protein, ferritin, GFAP, etc.). Instead, the quantitative interpretation showed limits due to the lack of reference cut-offs. Thanatobiochemistry is a useful tool to confirm what emerged from autopsies findings (macroscopic and histological analysis), but further studies are desirable to confirm the evidence emerging from our review of the literature. Full article
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