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University of Salzburg researchers say they can work out the exact time of death 10 days laterWiki Commons

A group of researchers have discovered a way to pinpoint the exact time of death up to 10 days after the deceased died.

As it stands, forensic experts are unable to identify exactly when some died if 36 hours have passed.

However, scientists from the University of Salzburg have discovered how to elongate this time frame after observing how muscle proteins and enzymes deteriorate in pigs.

Some of the proteins they studied, particularly tropomyosin and actinin, showed no deterioration until 240 hours – 10 days – had passed.

Research leader Dr Peter Steinbacher said: "It is highly likely that all muscle proteins undergo detectable changes at a certain point in time, and this would extend the currently analysed time frame even further.

"We were able to detect similar changes and exactly the same degradation products in human muscle tissue as we had in our pig study."

Muscle tissue is a reliable source for pathologists due to their abundance in the body and speedy delivery with results being returned within a day.

Findings from Steinbaucher's study will be presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB).