Identification of apoptotic cell nuclei in postmortem skin biopsies using the tunel reaction: Effect of post-mortem time interval

T. Sawaguchi, B. Jasani, B. Knight

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The period of time between death and the removal of a skin specimen will be referred to as the postmortem interval. Normal skin samples with known postmortem intervals were studied for the presence of apoptotic cells using Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) method. Skin samples (n=20) were taken from normal-looking skin from forensic autopsies, with postmortem intervals from 0 to 7 days. All samples were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde solution overnight at room temperature and embedded in paraffin wax using standard procedure. In Situ Cell Detection Kit for the TUNEL reaction from Boehringer Mannheim was applied with minor modification to dewaxed 5 μm thick sections and counterstaining of nuclei was achieved by using methylgreen. In normal skin samples with postmortem intervals of less than 6 days, a similar number of apoptotic cells per high power field (x 40 objective) was seen in the epidermis. The present study shows that the epidermis is relatively free of apoptotic activity up to 6 days postmortem and thus apoptosis is one of the possible markers that can be used to investigate forensic pathological factors during this period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-43
Number of pages5
JournalActa Criminologiae et Medicinae Legalis Japonica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1997



  • apoptosis
  • human
  • postmortem
  • skin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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