Detection of Diagnostic Plant-Derived Psychoactive Biomarkers in Fingerprints by MALDI-SpiralTOF-Mass Spectrometry Imaging

  • Cameron M. Longo
  • Rabi A. MusahEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1810)


One of the current challenges in forensics is establishment of a connection between an individual and substances to which they have been exposed, and which might have relevance in crime scene investigation. An example of a situation in which this arises is when an individual has handled, and is under the influence of any one of a large number of currently unscheduled plant-based mind-altering substances. In such instances as a medical emergency or a crime scene investigation , one way to establish a connection between an individual and their exposure to such substances is to take advantage of the high information content of their fingerprint. The fingerprint pattern not only establishes the identity of the individual, but also contains rarely exploited chemical information about molecules to which they have been exposed that might have a bearing on a crime. If the fingerprint image is based on the spatial distribution of diagnostic molecular markers indicative of a substance, then an individual’s identity can be definitively tied to exposure to the substance. The fingerprint image derived from the spatial distribution of diagnostic molecules can be obtained by mass spectrometry imaging (MSI). Here, we demonstrate how the handling by an individual of a plant-derived psychoactive brew called ayahuasca can be established through determination, by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) MSI, of ion images featuring biomarkers from the plants from which the brew is made.

Key words

Mass spectrometry MALDI Ayahuasca Biomarkers Fingerprints Forensics 



Development of the protocol reported herein was supported in part by Award Number 2015-DN-BX-K057, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. The support of the Department of Justice is gratefully acknowledged.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryState University of New York at AlbanyAlbanyUSA

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