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Forensic Sci Int. 2012 Nov 30;223(1-3):342-8. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.10.018. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

Pathophysiology of sudden cardiac death as demonstrated by molecular pathology of natriuretic peptides in the myocardium.

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  • 1Department of Legal Medicine, Osaka City University Medical School, Asahi-machi 1-4-3, Abeno, 545-8585 Osaka, Japan.


Various heart diseases present with sudden death; however, it is difficult to interpret the severity of or difference in respective preexisting and terminal cardiac dysfunction based on conventional morphology. The present study investigated the cardiac pathophysiology employing quantitative mRNA measurement of atrial and brain natriuretic peptides (ANP and BNP) in the myocardium as markers of cardiac strain, using autopsy materials consisting of acute ischemic heart disease (AIHD, n=40) with/without the pathology of apparent myocardial necrosis (n=19/21), recurrent myocardial infarction (RMI, n=19), chronic congestive heart disease (CHD, n=11) and right ventricular cardiomyopathy (RVC, n=5), as well as hemopericardium (HP, n=11) due to myocardial infarction (n=5) and aortic rupture (n=6), and acute pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE, n=5). Cardiac death groups showed higher ANP and/or BNP mRNA expressions in the left ventricle than acute fatal bleeding (sharp instrumental injury; n=15) and/or mechanical asphyxiation (strangulation; n=10). AIHD and RMI cases had similar ANP and BNP mRNA expressions in bilateral ventricular walls, but their bilateral atrial levels were lower in RMI. RVC showed higher mRNA expressions of posterior left ventricular BNP, and right ventricular and bilateral atrial ANP and BNP. HP cases had lower BNP mRNA expression in the right ventricular wall, but PTE showed lower ANP and BNP mRNA expressions in the left ventricular wall; however, these mRNA expressions at other sites were similar to those of AIHD. CHD presented findings similar to those of AIHD, but the pericardial BNP level was significantly increased. These observations indicate characteristic molecular biological responses of myocardial natriuretic peptides in individual heart diseases and suggest the possible application of molecular pathology to demonstrate cardiac dysfunction even after death.

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