Application of laser ablation (LA-ICP-SF-MS) for the elemental analysis of bone and teeth samples for discrimination purposes

Waleska Castro, Jurian Hoogewerff, Christopher Latkoczy, José R. Almirall

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78 Citations (Scopus)


Human bone and teeth fragments can be useful evidence when found in crime scenes and/or mass burials sites. The elemental and isotopic composition of these samples can provide information about environmental exposure events and could also be used to distinguish different individuals. The development and application of robust analytical methods for the quantification of trace elements in these biological matrices may lead to a better understanding of the potential utility of these measurements in forensic analyses. In this paper, we demonstrate the possibility of conducting quantitative analysis of trace metals found in bone remains and suggest a strategy to discriminate between individuals, based on this information. A LA-ICP-SF-MS method using non-matrix matched standard calibration was developed and optimized with bone standard reference materials (SRMs) and subsequently applied to the analysis of real samples. The developed method requires micrograms amount of sample (vs. milligrams required for solution-based analysis) while also reducing the analysis time and resulting in good accuracy (typically <10% bias) and precision (<15% RSD). Additionally, laser ablation allowed using spatial resolution analysis to assess the biogenic elemental composition in buried bone samples. Elemental analysis of bone samples from 12 different individuals provided better discrimination between the individuals when the femur and humerus bones were considered separately (42.7% correct classification with all bones vs. 75.2% and 63.1% for femur bones and humerus bones, respectively). Separation of individuals was achieved by elemental composition of whole teeth samples from 14 individuals, except one case where not all the teeth from the same individual were associated together. Separation of individuals was improved when using elemental composition of the enamel and dentine + cementum layers separately in a set of samples from 7 individuals. These are promising results for the use of elemental analysis by laser ablation ICP-MS for discrimination purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


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