First Advisor

Katelyn Weinbrecht

Date of Award

Spring 6-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology and University Honors






Death -- Causes, Proteomics, Biochemical markers, Forensic pathology




Cause of death differentiation during a medicolegal autopsy can be complicated by several factors, including sample conditions which can create uncertainty. Postmortem protein analysis has potential to be used as an additional evidentiary tool in determining cause of death. Proteomic biomarkers offer a method to directly measure physiological conditions at time of death that are stable in a postmortem state. Specific protein expression levels have been studied for their postmortem application in significantly differentiating many different causes of death. Work done in regard to asphyxial, toxicological, and traumatic deaths will be specifically discussed here. Proteins will be reviewed for potential diagnostic efficacy through specificity, sensitivity, and detailed thresholds with attention to the research conditions. While significant trends have been recognized, further work is required to validate potential applications in forensic pathology. For many biomarkers, significant correlation to cause of death, the agonal period, or the influence of a postmortem state is still being determined. The use of one protein by itself has not yet been able to differentiate cause of death with high enough specificity and sensitivity. Therefore, the use of a panel of validated biomarkers is suggested to increase significance in diagnostic efficacy.


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