The study of volatile organic compounds associated with decomposition of pig tissue as a model for human decomposition
Brown, Abigail Gunther
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Volatile organic compounds are a topic of interest for researchers in a variety of fields. These areas include the postmortem interval (PMI), cadaver dogs, postmortem toxicology, search and rescue, human scent as a biometric measure, human scent as an attractant to mosquitoes, and cancer biomarkers. In the research of volatile organic compounds associated with human decomposition, a number of methods and techniques are being used, which leads to inconsistencies in the compounds detected. The difficulty in the procurement of human tissues for research also adds to the inconsistencies and the limitations of current research. The domestic pig is often used as a substitute for human research because it has been determined to be the best model corpse. Due to the many restrictions associated with testing on human cadavers, pigs are often substituted because of their anatomical and physiological similarities to humans. This study analyzed the volatile organic compounds associated with the decomposition of pig tissue as a model for the volatile organic compounds associated with human decomposition. Heated passive headspace concentration with activated carbon as the adsorbent material followed by analysis with GC/MS was tested for its reliability in recovering and detecting volatile organic compounds of decomposition. The volatile organic compounds detected were examined for their applicability in determining the postmortem interval and for their use as cadaver dog training aids. The volatile organic compounds detected were compared to volatile organic compounds reported in the literature and examined to determine their reliability in using the domestic pig as a research model for humans. The results of this study demonstrated the need for a reliable, consistent method for analyzing volatile organic compounds associated with decomposition. It also demonstrated the need for procurement of human tissue for further research. The results of this research further demonstrated the variability surrounding the decomposition process and the difficulty in determining the postmortem interval based on the volatile organic compounds detected. This research corroborated that the compounds detected from decomposition are not unique or specific to human decomposition and exposes a number of areas that require further research and exposes aspects of current research that need to be reexamined.
Thesis (M.S.)--Boston University