It is difficult to determinate the cause of death from exposure to fatal hypothermia and hyperthermia in forensic casework. Here, we present a state-of-the-art study that employs Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to investigate the hypothalamus tissues of fatal hypothermic, fatal hyperthermic and normothermic rats to determine forensically significant biomarkers related to fatal hypothermia and hyperthermia. Our results revealed that the spectral variations in the lipid, protein, carbohydrate and nucleic acid components are highly different for hypothalamuses after exposure to fatal hypothermic, fatal hyperthermic and normothermic conditions. In comparison with the normothermia group, the fatal hypothermia and hyperthermia groups contained higher total lipid amounts but were lower in unsaturated lipids. Additionally, their cell membranes were found to have less motional freedom. Among these three groups, the fatal hyperthermia group contained the lowest total proteins and carbohydrates and the highest aggregated and dysfunctional proteins, while the fatal hypothermia group contained the highest level of nucleic acids. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that FTIR spectroscopy has the potential to become a reliable method for the biochemical characterization of fatal hypothermia and hyperthermia hypothalamus tissues, and this could be used as a postmortem diagnostic feature in fatal hypothermia and hyperthermia deaths.

This is an open access article published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society and distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).
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