Estimation of the postmortem interval (PMI) is one of the most important tasks in forensic medicine. Five autopsy organ tissues such as brain, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys were taken at the time of forensic autopsy from 19 known PMI cases with a range of postmortem intervals ranging from 1 to 120 h (the mean was 25.81 h), and the time-course of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression was measured. The human hepatoma-derived Hep 3B cell line was used as a control.
The levels of VEGF increased linearly with the PMI up to 20 h in lung (r = 0.95 and in kidney (r = 0.89), and up to 15 h PMI in liver (r = 0.88). The VEGF levels fell after 24 h PMI, and then remained stable. In brain, the levels of VEGF started to increase after 24 h PMI and increased linearly with PMI up to 40 h in brain (r = 0.94) and then begin to fall. In heart, there was no clear correlation between the PMI and VEGF level. Some variations occurred in selected cases, such as the infant and asphyxial deaths.
In conclusion, measurement of hypoxia-inducible levels of VEGF in various body organs appears to be a useful method of estimating the PMI up to 24 h in forensic medicine and pathophysiology. This method is also probably applicable in ischaemia in clinical and basic medicine.