Hypothermia causes systemic cellular stress. The pituitary gland is an endocrine gland and plays an important role in thermoregulation. When the core body temperature drops, the pituitary gland is activated by stimulation of hypothalamic hormones. In this study, we investigated morphological alterations of the pituitary gland in cases of fatal hypothermia. Several morphological alterations of the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, such as hemorrhage, vacuolization, and hyperemia, have been previously described in fatal hypothermia. However, the diagnostic value of these findings is controversial. We compared 11 cases of fatal hypothermia with 10 cases lacking antemortem hypothermic influences. In the presence of thermal cellular stress, the expression of heat shock proteins increases to protect cellular structures. Therefore, we immunohistochemically analyzed Hsp27 and Hsp70. Hsp27 expression was detected in 27.3% of the cases of fatal hypothermia and in 10.0% of the control cases, whereas Hsp70 expression was not detected in any case. Additionally, Sudan staining was performed to quantify fatty degeneration. A positive reaction was found in 45.5% of the study group and in 10.0% of the control group. This indicates that fatty degeneration might be a valuable marker when other macroscopic signs of hypothermia are absent.
"Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology" – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 19, 2017
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