Objective: Death due to burn occurs frequently. This study investigated time-dependent alterations in cardiac troponin T (cTnT) associated with fatal burns.
Methods: Cardiac tissue samples were collected from 10 medico-legal autopsies after informed consent from the relatives and post-mortem degradation by incubation of the cardiac tissue was studied at room temperature for different time periods. The cases included in this study were the subjects of burns without any prior history of disease who died in the hospital and their exact time of death was known. An efficient extraction protocol to analyse the banding pattern of cTnT in post-mortem tissue was developed.
Results: The data show a distinct time-dependent profile corresponding to the degradation of cTnT by proteases found in cardiac muscle. Both post-mortem interval and cardiac tissue of burned corpses had a statistically significant effect where the greatest amount of protein breakdown was observed within the first 41.20 hours, after which intact protein slowly disappears. The average molecular weight of all fragments showed intact cTnT to be rapidly degraded into smaller fragments.
Conclusion: In cases of burns, such knowledge will assist in knowing if there were previous scars that might have mimicked a burn and also help to properly evaluate the real cause of death.