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1. NMS Labs, Willow Grove, PA, USAA
2. University of New Mexico School of Medicine - Pathology, USA
3. Center for Forensic Science Research and Education


The analysis of biological specimens for the presence of exogenous insulin is of special interest in select postmortem investigations. Insulin analogues are primarily used to mediate the regulation of blood glucose concentrations; however, their use has also been implicated or suspected as a cause of death in suicides, accidents, and homicides. Toxicological analysis for these compounds is challenging due to the large molecular weight, the limited stability of insulin in whole blood, and complexities associated with sample preparation and instrumental testing. As a consequence, determination of insulin in postmortem specimens is not routinely offered by most forensic toxicology laboratories. Forensic death investigation is further complicated by interpretative difficulties such as the frequent absence of anatomical findings, concentration interpretation in known insulin users, and addressing the impact of chemical instability and postmortem redistribution. There are ongoing efforts, however, to develop and validate robust methods that may be used for this analysis on these challenging samples and that are capable of withstanding scientific and legal scrutiny for forensic use. In this regard, in recent years, methods for the detection of exogenous insulin in postmortem samples have been reported and results of this testing has been published in a handful of cases. The purpose of this article is to review the primary functions of insulin, the disease states associated with the therapeutic use of exogenous insulin, the current state of laboratory testing, and to provide case summaries that summarize the timeline of advancements and underscore the importance of this work.


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