The estimation of the age of skin bruises is of importance in forensic medicine, especially in child abuse cases. Time-dependent changes in bruise colour and/or associated histological features have been used with a limited degree of success. An increased rate of apoptosis in the injured tissue has been considered as a novel time-dependent marker of cell death, by injury inflicted in a rat model. The object of the present study was to apply the TUNEL method of DNA end labelling to identify and enumerate apoptotic cells in bruised and normal skin in order to study the relationship of apoptotic cell density with the age of the bruise. A commercially available DNA end labelling kit, TUNEL method, was standardised, validated and used for this purpose. Twenty unselected post-mortem cases with bruises due to a variety of causes were studied. The apoptotic cells stained with TUNEL reaction were counted in 10 high power fields in the epidermis, as well as in the dermis of formaldehyde-fixed paraffin-embedded skin specimens. The mean positive cell densities (±1 S.E.) were compared with respect to the age of the bruise. In the epidermis, the mean apoptotic cell count was statistically significantly greater in the bruised skin compared to normal skin in 2- to 6-day-old bruises; whilst in the dermis the same was true in 3- to 8-day-old bruises. The overall findings suggest that there is a quiescent period prior to the increase in the apoptotic cell activity that is seen following skin bruising. This is so provided the post-mortem skin samples were collected within a lapse of 6 days or less between the time of death and formalin fixation and paraffin embedding to avoid the bias made by the difference of length of post-mortem interval. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
- Human skin bruises
- TUNEL method
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine