A team of scientists from the University of Salzburg have found a new way to decipher the time of death. Their method allows for an exact calculation even after 10 days.
Accurately determining the time of death is not possible after around 36 hours; a rough estimation only can be provided, given current methodologies. The findings of the group of researchers seem to make it possible though – even up to 240 hours following death.
When the researchers observed the degradation of muscle proteins and enzymes in pigs, they found that some of the proteins (namely, tropomyosin and actinin) only underwent degradation after 240 hours.
“It is highly likely that all muscle proteins undergo detectable changes at a certain point in time, and this would extend the currently analysed timeframe even further,” said lead researcher Dr Peter Steinbacher.
The products of degradation of proteins start appearing at specific times after death. By focusing on the point at which they emerge, the researchers traced back the time of death.
“We were able to detect similar changes and exactly the same degradation products in human muscle tissue as we had in our pig study”, said Steinbacher.
Using muscle tissue in this aspect of forensics is a rather new method. It is believed to be advantageous as the tissue is the most abundant in the human body and therefore easily sampled. Furthermore, proteins in the tissue are well documented.