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Forensic Toxicology: Where to Look: A Work in Progress Neeka Parker, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Mentor: Andrea Kirk, Honors College. Abstract. Review of Other Research. GC-MS Theory.

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Forensic Toxicology: Where to Look: A Work in Progress

Neeka Parker, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences

Faculty Mentor: Andrea Kirk, Honors College


Review of Other Research

GC-MS Theory

Identification and quantification of drugs and other substances present in corpses can be used to determine the cause and manner of death. However, the levels of these substances in blood and other bodily fluids change as the time since death increases. To accurately interpret the results of most analyses, the time since death must be known to some degree of certainty. Some research has been done on concentrations of certain drugs in brain tissue. If a location can be found where the concentration does not change or changes only slightly with time, the time since death would not have to be known to accurately quantify concentrations. I am interested in researching where the most accurate concentrations of some of these substances at the time of death can be found. Right now I am reviewing relevant literature with the aim of refining my topic.

    • Commonly abused drugs and their derivatives
      • Heroin, Cocaine, morphine, and dihydrocodeine
  • Analytical Methods
      • Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS)
      • High performance (or pressure) liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS)
      • Fourier transform infrared (FTIR)
      • Photoionization detection (PID)
    • Techniques for acquiring samples
  • Methods for detecting clandestine methamphetamine labs
  • Considerations for determination of postmortem ethanol concentration
      • Analysis complicated by the possibility of postmortem ethanol production
      • Various pathways have been examined and products noted
      • Taking samples from femoral veins in conjunction with urine from the bladder or vitreous humor is best
      • Ratio of the concentration of ethanol in urine or vitreous to the concentration in blood is usually a good indicator of postmortem production
      • 1-propanol and 1-butanol are also good indicators of postmortem ethanol production
      • Non-oxidative metabolites indicate ante-mortem ethanol consumption

The theory behind HPLC is that different compounds will travel at different rates. This is due to their different attractions to the mobile and stationary phases.

A mass spectrometer is often coupled with a other analytical equipment (such as HPLC) that separates matrix components. An MS identifies analytes according to the mass/charge ratio.


Wendy K. Wilkins, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic AffairsGloria C. Cox, Ph.D., Dean, Honors College

Andrea, Kirk, Ph.D., Honors College

Possible Samples

  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Vitreous humor
  • Hair
  • Gastric juices
  • Organs
    • Liver
    • Brain
  • Maggots

Reference List

Beyer, Jochen, Olaf H. Drummer and Hans H. Maurer. “Analysis of toxic alkaloids in body samples,” Forensic Science International 185 (March 2009): 1-9.

Boumba, Vassiliki A., Kallirroe S. Ziavrou and Theodore Vougiouklakis. “Biochemical pathways generating post-mortem volatile compounds co-detected during forensic ethanol analyses,” Forensic Science International 174 (January 2008): 133-151.

Kugelberg, Fredrik C. and Alan Wayne Jones. “Interpreting results of ethanol analysis in postmortem specimens: A review of the literature,” Forensic Science International 165 (January 2007): 10-29.

Man, Gabriel, Boris Stoeber and KonradWalus. “An assessment of sensing technologies for the detection of clandestine methamphetamine drug laboratories,” Forensic Science International 189 (August 2009): 1-13.

Stimpfl, T. and S. Reichel. “Distribution of drugs of abuse within specific regions of the human brain,” Forensic Science International 170 (August 2007): 179-182.

Three Mass Spectra