Department of Forensic Medicine
Faculty of Medicine
CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
Current research projects:
- Forensic Medicine Department at Medical University of Gdańsk within the framework of statutory scientific and research work conducts experimental study extensively related to forensic medicine, traumatology and analytic sciences connected with forensic medicine: forensic toxicology, analytical chemistry, molecular biology, forensic genetics, epidemiology of mortality and molecular phylogenetic. Scientific research has been concentrated on classical analytical and diagnostic methods as well as the most advanced tools of molecular genetics (RT-PCR) or chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS, GC-MS). Forensic Medicine Department (FMD) at Medical University of Gdańsk (MUG) has presented long-lasting experience in PhD students education. In last year’s two current employees have completed scientific research falling within the scope of theirs doctoral thesis and obtained a doctoral degree in medical sciences (one PhD thesis with distinction). Currently 4 doctoral students realize research projects within the framework of their doctoral thesis by conducting original experimental research in particular laboratories of the Department.
- Population studies constitute an important aspect of forensic genetics and molecular anthropology. First of all, they allow to assess usefulness of chosen DNA markers in forensic casework as well as possibility of establishment of common interpopulation databases of allele and haplotype frequencies for statistical evaluation of DNA evidence in forensic medicine. If genetic structure is observed in a population, separate allele and haplotype frequency databases should be used for all subpopulations showing genetic distinctiveness. Research in our genetic laboratory has been focused on polymorphism of forensically relevant DNA markers, including complete mitochondrial genomes, in chosen populations with particular emphasis on Slavic populations. The obtained and regularly published results allow to reconstruct and understand history of modern populations inhabiting Europe.
Short tandem repeats (STRs) are multiallelic DNA markers which constitute a basic tool in forensic medicine to analyse DNA mixtures in biological traces. Owing to capability to detect a minority component of a DNA mixture, STRs may also become useful in examination of foeto-maternal microchimerism in plasma of pregnant women, inter alia, for paternity testing when a pregnancy may result from a crime. The foeto-maternal microchimerism is observed as presence of the third allele in a genetic profile of maternal plasma cell-free DNA. Detection of a larger number of alleles may results e.g. from chromosomal aberrations in a foetus or from a multiple non-monozygotic pregnancy. Monozygotic twin pregnancies are characterised by much higher mortality of foeti in comparison to dizygotic twin pregnancies, so early diagnosis of twin pregnancy zygosity would allow to provide twin pregnancies with accurate medical care from the first months of the pregnancy. It should be also noted that frequency of twin pregnancies has been growing very rapidly throughout the world as a result of a shift in age at first reproduction and of more and more common use of assisted reproduction technology. Research in our genetic laboratory aims at evaluation of usefulness of STR markers commonly used in forensic practice for detection of foetal DNA in plasma of pregnant women and for diagnosis of zygosity of twin pregnancies conceived naturally and resulting from in vitro fertilisation.
- Forensic toxicology has been intensively developing as a forensic science last years and now research in the Forensic Toxicology Laboratory in FMD is carried out as part of the project on toxicological analysis of biological material mainly towards new psychoactive substances (NPS) and the correlation of the concentrations obtained with toxic effects on the human body. Results of the analysis, after correlating with the data among others symptoms and circumstances of the case should provide toxicological and epidemiological data which allow estimation of the impact of NPS on the human body and enable determination of non-toxic, toxic and lethal concentration ranges for NPS. Under one of the PhD study, four analytical procedures allowing determination of selected psychoactive substances, mainly from the group of 2-phenylethylamine derivatives, i.e. compounds from the amphetamine derivatives group and synthetic cathinones, in human blood and urine samples were developed. Instrumental analytical techniques, mainly gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS), were used in the research. Liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) followed by derivatization was chosen as a sample preparation step. Validation was also performed for the developed procedures. Metrological parameters obtained during validation indicate that the developed procedures are high sensitive, selective, accurate and precise. Importantly, low LODs and LOQs were obtained at levels comparable to those obtained by procedures utilizing liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry technique (LC-MS/MS). Another area of research concerns also attempts to use metabolites of psychoactive substances as specific bioindicators (biomarkers of exposure). Identification of biomarkers usually allows detection of consumption or exposure to a toxic substance in a longer time than the determination of such substance in samples of biological origin (longer detection time window). The research is also focused on the analysis of alternative materials, i.e. neonatal meconium for forensic toxicology and medical diagnosis. Another PhD study focuses on correlation between time since death (TSD) and concentration of selected compounds, such as GHB (4-hydroxybutanoic acid), xanthine, hypoxanthine, and potassium ions. The aim of this study is development of an algorithm which would enable forensic scientists to pinpoint TSD within an acceptable margin of error, based on results of an autopsy as well as multi-parameter thanatochemistry analysis of biological material, specifically in blood and in vitreous humour. The algorithm should help forensic scientists in finding TSD up to 96 h after death. Another area of interest in recent years has been polyamine system of neurophysiological regulation (putrescine, spermidine and spermine). The short period of autolysis time and acceptable number of analyzed human brain regions in a research should allow to estimate polyamine concentrations in suicide cohort and control group with acceptable experimental certainty.
- Scientific research performed in FMD in last few years connected with neurobiology and experimentally focused on the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of mental disorders and processes leading to suicide through the involvement of conventional staining methods routinely used in histopathology (AgNOR staining) and molecular biology (Reverse Transcription Real-Time PCR) contain one of the many branches of the departmental scientific work. Analysis of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) level by reverse transcription and quantitative polymerase chain reaction are being performed in the anterior cingulate (AC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in suicide (versus non-suicidal control cases). The analysis should elucidate whether suicidal behaviour is related to the disturbed ribosomal DNA (rDNA) transcription in cortical areas crucial for the regulation of emotions. Evaluation of the AgNOR area and other karyometric parameters are being performed in serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus neurons and frontal-lobe pyramidal neurons (in aforementioned cerebral region) in aforementioned cohort and control subjects. The quantitative morphological study should elucidate whether karyometric parameters evaluated in cortical pyramidal neurons correspond with the rRNA level measured in AC, OFC and DLPFC samples by the molecular method. Results of current research and those planned in the framework of the extension of existing research will be published in impacted international journals, presented at international and polish conferences. According the suicidality research they will be important for a more comprehensive understanding of suicide neurobiology and will provide the potential practical value for suicide prevention and differential forensic diagnostics between suicide and non-suicide death.
- Scientific research on classical forensic medicine performed at the Department of Forensic Medicine (Medical University of Gdańsk) concerns an alternative method of time-of-death estimation in the early post mortem period by means of eye temperature measured after death in human bodies (vitreous humour). Thanks to the knowledge of the exact time of death (TOD) and the stable ambient temperature, the study allowed to improve the method by adjusting the mean value of the cooling constant and the initial eye temperature in comparison to recent studies. Also as a part of the scientific work performed at the Department of Forensic Medicine, it concerns improving diagnostic methods useful in medico-legal opinions, including reconstruction of circumstances, cause and mechanisms of death (for example in the complex cases of road traffic accident).
- Scientific research in the Laboratory of Forensic Biology and Genetics focuses mainly on the identification of biological material with the application of DNA profiling techniques (STR and SNP polymorphism of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA). The second branch of our main scientific interests is the study of the use of mRNA for identification of different types of tissues and body fluids in forensic genetics.
Since 1994, we have conducted scientific and diagnostic research in cooperation with the Department of Hematology and Transplantology (diagnosis of chimerism after bone marrow transplants with the use of minisatellite and microsatellite STRs) and in cooperation with the Department of Hypertension and Diabetology the role of various polymorphisms (angiotensin I converting enzyme, leptin ) in hypertension. For many years, we have been also cooperating with other University Clinics like Oncology and Radiotherapy Clinic and the Department of Allergology, studying the role of different types of RNA (mRNA and miRNA) in cancer diseases and allergies.
Due to the judicial profile of the Laboratory (Laboratory of Forensic Biology and Genetics), unfortunately, we do not recruit doctoral candidates for scientific research.