"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Secret information hidden in your hair

Your hair can say quite a bit about you. It doesn't just give people a clue about your personality or about you. Taste in music. It may record evidence of how much you drink, whether you smoke or take drugs, and maybe how stressed you’re. My colleagues and I research how hair will be used to supply more accurate tests for these attributes. And a recent court case shows just how far technology has come.

In 2008, a mother fighting alcoholism asked a UK court in a baby custody case. Abstain from drinking for one yr. To assess whether she succeeded in doing so, the scientists used a hair evaluation that may detect long-term drug or alcohol use (or abstinence) over a period of several months with only one test. Is.

This case proved to be a seminal moment for the evaluation of toxic hair. Labs analyzing the mother's hair suggested she had been drinking when she was alleged to abstain. The case ended up within the High Court, where the scientific principles of hair testing and, importantly, the way in which the outcomes are reported, were thoroughly debated. The judge criticized the interpretation of the information from the hair evaluation and disagreed with the scientists, saying there was no evidence to support alcohol consumption through the prescribed period.

Fast forward to 2017 and hair evaluation is outstanding. Again in the High Court. Yet this time the reliability of the hair test was confirmed. Much has modified within the intervening years of those cases. Technology has advanced, but importantly, so has our understanding of what hair evaluation data actually means.

Traditional samples for drug and alcohol testing are blood and urine. These provide evidence of cases where we’d like indicators of drug and alcohol exposure in a more moderen timeframe. These patterns have what is known as a “detection window.” This is a timeframe over which the sample may exhibit drug or alcohol exposure. The detection window for blood is commonly measured in hours, and urine may show evidence inside days, possibly weeks.

Conversely, hair can show your past history of drug or alcohol use (or abstinence) over several months. This level of data makes hair testing invaluable in quite a lot of legal scenarios. If you could screen potential employees for a safety-critical role, you should use a hair test to examine that they usually are not regular drug users. What in the event you're concerned that your drink was spiked at a celebration, but an excessive amount of time has passed before any drugs are present in your blood or urine? Drugs can remain trapped in your hair, supplying you with an extended detection window and allowing scientists to search for traces of medication long after the actual crime occurred.

Ready for my close-up.

mine Research Group Investigating the aspects that affect hair concentrations that affect the production of certain chemicals when the body processes alcohol (metabolites). This form of work is essential to construct confidence in hair test results when presented in court. We need the utmost confidence in data, when a court decision can have life-changing consequences.

We recently shown that hair sprays and waxes can greatly increase the extent of alcohol metabolites present in hair, giving a false positive lead to an alcohol test. In one in every of our experiments, a volunteer who underwent a rigorous titillation test was found to be negative for fatty acid ethyl esters (alcohol metabolites) in scalp hair not treated with hairspray, but treated with hairspray. Tested positive after Not just slightly positive. The volunteer tested sufficiently for excessive alcohol consumption after using the hairspray.

This could seem dangerous for a test utilized in court, but now that scientists are aware of those limitations, procedures will be devised to mitigate against them and Guidance may be updated. Ethyl glucuronide (a distinct alcohol metabolite) is unaffected by hair sprays and waxes and thus is a greater goal to check for when one uses cosmetic products.

Other testing methods

Hair shouldn’t be the one alternative to blood and urine testing. I’m currently investigating whether fingernails is perhaps a greater sample to check in cases where we’d like to prove abstinence from alcohol. This has been shown that fingernails can add significantly more ethyl glucuronide (an alcohol metabolite) than hair samples. This implies that nails could also be more sensitive than hair and will be higher at distinguishing between alcohol consumption and complete abstinence.

Toxic hair evaluation shouldn’t be about catching criminals. It shouldn’t be about punishment or punishment. It's about helping people. Hair test results can assist people. Struggles with addiction. In the longer term I hope we may even use hair evaluation as a diagnostic tool in healthcare.

Research I’m currently conducting is examining the potential of hair as a diagnostic marker of chronic stress. Stress can result in very serious health care problems. We are testing the stress hormone cortisol to see if we are able to discover people vulnerable to future health care problems from the concentration of this hormone within the hair.

If successful, this work will take hair evaluation to a brand new level. I would love to see a future where hair testing is used for a national screening program for seniors who’re most in danger for chronic stress. This could allow scientists to focus on interventions to cut back stress at those that need them most, which could significantly improve the health and well-being of older people specifically.