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Is Flow Cytometric Evaluation of DNA Degradation a Reliable Method to Investigate the Early Postmortem Period?

Di Nunno, Nunzio R. M.D.; Costantinides, Fulvio M.D.; Bernasconi, Paola M.D.; Bottin, Cristina; Melato, Mauro M.D.

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 1998 - Volume 19 - Issue 1 - p 50-53

The time of death can be established by determining the length of the postmortem interval. Many methods have been proposed to achieve this goal. Flow cytometric evaluation of DNA degradation seems to be reliable for the first 72 hours after death. Our study evaluated the correspondence of the corruption process between in vitro and corpse tissues. We chose spleen tissue to perform our investigation because it is rich in nucleated cells. Results showed a precise correspondence between the two kinds of samples in the time period between 24 and 36 hours. The period from 36 to 72 hours is characterized by a much looser correspondence than that found in the first period. After the first 72 hours, DNA denaturation is massive and does not allow useful cytofluorimetric readings. The spleen does not seem to be the most suitable organ for this type of investigation because it tends to colliquate very rapidly. We therefore are evaluating other organs to identify a more suitable tissue source for the investigation of longer postmortem period using flow cytometry.

From the Institute of Forensic Medicine, (N.R.D., F.C., P.B.) and the Department of Biomedical Science (C.B., M.M.), University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy.

Received October 17, 1996; accepted January 31, 1997.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Nunzio R. Di Nunno, Istituto di Medicina Legale dell'Univerzsità di Trieste, Via del Molino a Vento no. 123, 34137 Trieste, Italy.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.