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Hair Analysis Part I

A Study of Trace Evidence

Morphology & Structure of Hair

Hair Morphology

Morphology: Cuticle

Protective coating made of overlapping scales, produce a characteristic pattern Scales always point toward tip of hair Not useful in individualizing human hair Can be used for species identification

Morphology: Cuticle

Cuticle Types
Mosaic Pectinate Diamond



Morphology: Cortex

Made of spindle-shaped cells aligned in a regular array, parallel to the length of the hair Embedded with pigment granules that give hair its color The color, shape and distribution of the granules provide points for forensic comparison

Morphology: Medulla

Canal like structure of cells that runs through the center of the cortex


Medulla vary between individuals Vary between hairs of the same individual Some hairs have no medulla

Medullary Index

Measure of the diameter of the medulla relative to the diameter of the hair shaft Usually expressed as a fraction Humans: medullary index < 1/3 Animals: medullary index > 1/2

Medulla of Different Species



Medulla of Different Species

Medulla Related to Hair Color

Very fair
Light Brown


Forensic Analysis of Medulla

Presence of medulla varies quite a bit: even hair to hair Human head hairs generally have no medulla or may be fragmented ones; except Mongoloid race whose medulla is usually continuous Most animals have medulla that is continuous or interrupted The shape of the medulla can help identify a species Examples: Most animals and humans: cylindrical Cats: pearl shape Deer: spherical occupying whole hair shaft

Variation in Hair by Sex

Stained sex chromatin in the nuclei of human cells showing the female-indicative Barr body (bright spot, top) and the male-indicative Y body (bright spot, bottom)

Racial Determination




Hair Roots


Forcibly Removed


Tip of the Shaft





Morphology: Root

Human hair grows in three developmental stages: anagen, catagen, and telogen phases


1) Anagen - Growth Phase 2) Catagen - Transitional phase 3) Telogen - Resting Phase

Root: Anagen Phase

Initial growth phase during which hair follicle is actively producing hair, phase may last 6 years, root is flame like in appearance When pulled this root may contain a follicular tag (rich source of DNA)

Root w/ follicular tag

Root: Catagen Phase

A transition phasehair grows at a decreasing rate for two to three weekselongated appearance as root bulb shrinks and is being pushed out of hair follicle

Root: Telogen phase

Hair growth has endedroot takes on a club-like appearance during two-six month period, the hair will be pushed out of the follicle causing the hair to shed naturally

Identification and Comparison

Establish if the hair is human or animal Compare if the hair retrieved at the crime scene is compatible from a known hair of a particular individual The ability to distinguish human from animal is easy when compared to that of human hair comparison

Various morphological characteristics between individuals and the same individual

Identification and Comparison

Microscopic examination Animal or human Species of animal Important characteristics: Scale structure Medullary index Medullary shape

Identification and Comparison

Scalp hair Pubic hair Comparison microscope Hair from any part of the body exhibits a wide range of characteristics the examiner must have an adequate number of known hair samples that are representative of all its features

Identification and Comparison

Compare Length Color Diameter Presence or absence of medulla Distribution, shape and color intensity of the pigment granules present in the cortex Dyed, bleached or natural hair

Identification and Comparison

Dyed hair: dye color found in cuticle as well as throughout cortex Bleaching: removes pigment from the hair and gives a yellowish tint If there has been growth of hair since last bleach or dye treatment: natural-end is distinct in color Hair is known to grow at an approximate rate of 1 cm/month

Therefore can estimate the time since last appointment or treatment

Identification and Comparison

Morphological abnormalities;

Diseases Deficiencies

Fungal and nit infections If one human head hair taken from the crime scene is found to be similar to a representative hair from a suspects head, the odds against it from originating from another person are about 4500 to 1 The odds of two different pubic hairs originating from two different individuals is 800 to 1

What can be determined

Body areas:

Scalp hairs show little variation of diameter and have more uniform distribution of pigment color Pubic hair are short, curly with a wide range of variations in shaft diameter and a continuous medulla Beard hairs: coarse and usually triangular in cross-section with blunt tips from cutting or shaving

What can be determined

Racial origin: Can distinguish between Negroid and Caucasian head hair Negroid hair: normally kinky, containing dense, unevenly distributed pigments, flat to oval in shape Caucasian hair: straight or wavy, with very fine to coarse pigments that are more evenly distributed when compared to Negroid hair Cross sections of Caucasian hair are oval to round in shape

These are very general in nature

What can be determined

Age cannot be determined from morphology with any degree of certainty except with infant hair

Fine, short in length, have fine pigment and are rudimentary in character

Sexual discrimination at this time is not considered to be a routine forensic technique, but can be made with root tip DNA Microscopic examination of the hair root may establish if the hair has fallen out or has been pulled out

Hair root with follicular tissue adhering to it is indicative that the hair has been pulled out

What can be determined

The current approach for examination of hair is the morphological characteristics Breakthroughs in nuclear DNA typing has extended the technology to the individualization of human hair

Examiners can link a particular human hair to an individual by characterizing the nuclear DNA in the hair root or follicular tissue adhering to the root Higher rate of success extracting DNA from a hair in the anagen phase or anagen hairs entering the catagen phase then those in the telogen phase


Crime scene hairs must always be accompanied by an adequate amount of control samples from the victim and from suspects Hair from any one area of the body varies significantly. The questioned hairs and control hairs must come from the same area of the body

Collection of Hair Specimen


Forensic hair comparisons usually involve scalp or pubic hairs Collection of 50 full length hairs from all areas of the scalp A minimum of two dozen full length pubic hairs In rape cases care must be taken to first comb the pubic area to remove all foreign hair present before the victim is sampled for control hair