From the 12th to the 14th of June this year, we’ll be hosting the Scientific Meeting of the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) in Cardiff. As a preview, we’ve brought together the keynote speakers from the conference for a series of exclusive interviews. This month: Alberto Salomone.
Having completed his PhD at the University of Turin in 2008, Alberto became Laboratory Supervisor at the Regional Centre for Antidoping and Toxicology A. Bertinaria in Turin. He is regularly appointed to provide chemical analysis and assessment within the judicial system, is in charge of tutorship at the University of Turin, and is current President of the European Workplace Drug Testing Society. His keynote on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) - ‘legal highs’ - is sure to be a highlight of the Meeting.
Cansford Labs (CL): Alberto, tell us a little about the Scientific Meetings of the past and future. What are you most looking forward to in 2017?
Alberto Salomone (AS): Every year the SoHT meeting shows us great science, but it’s also a lot of fun. I am looking forward to spending some time with my friends from the hair testing world, and learning about the latest discoveries in this challenging field... with a good pint of local beer in our hands, after the hard work of the day!
CL: Can you tell us a little about your keynote? How did you come to study NPS, and what have your findings been so far?
AS: If you’re doing research in forensic toxicology today, it is inevitable that you’ll study NPS, and there are several unexplored or undiscovered aspects of NPS use. My current project, for example, has found that hair analysis offers a unique perspective in the investigation of NPS diffusion and consumption patterns in selected countries or populations.
Today, forensic applications of hair analysis concerning NPS are still controversial. In my keynote lecture, I’ll consider the main issues which still deserve substantial research and discussion within the scientific community, like passive exposure or sporadic use. We need to establish a consensus on these before we can safely give a definitive interpretation of positive or negative results in a given test.
CL: What are the biggest challenges hair testing faces today?
AS: Testing itself is relatively simple. For NPS, the main issue is the huge number of existing compounds, and the unknown extent to which NPS are present at certain times in different countries. As a consequence, laboratories struggle to have up-to-date screening methods. More generally, the interpretation of results has to be considered very carefully when testing hair, and especially with alcohol biomarkers.
CL: What is it about the world of hair testing that interests you? What drives you?
AS: I think about the previous question and I see the answer to this one! What is challenging is also attractive and fascinating. Results from hair testing – unlike other biological matrices – will likely always require interpretation from an experienced toxicologist, and a lot of valid scientific research in order to support such interpretation.
CL: What's next in your studies?
AS: For the last two years I have been working with Professor Joseph Palamar from New York University. We are using hair testing as a tool to gain objective biological drug prevalence information, in association with epidemiology studies based on surveys, and we are applying this approach to high-risk populations in the New York area.
We aim to extend the screened population and the target analytes over the rest of the project. Then I’d like to use this same approach in other scenarios or countries, especially in the context of music festivals and nightlife. And readers out there: we are looking for partners!
Exciting stuff. We’d like to thank Alberto for his time and contagious enthusiasm, and we can’t wait to hear more about his research. If you’re looking forward to the SoHT congress as much as we are, download a registration form for the event here.