Epidermal desquamation in Thiel-embalmed cadavers: histologic study: oral presentation

Veronika Dzetkulicová, Helen Langstaff (Supervisor), Sarah Hackman (Supervisor)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


Direct comparison of epidermal and dermal fingerprints may be vital to the identification of bodies that have been in water for long periods of time and their epidermal skin layer is no longer available. Epidermal desquamation occurs during the fixation of body in Thiel embalming fluid. The desquamation provides an opportunity to study the relationship between the epidermal and dermal fingerprints of Thiel-embalmed bodies. Current literature is vague on the histology of the desquamated skin layer in Thiel-embalmed bodies, therefore exposure of the dermal layer as a result of desquamation needs to be confirmed at the histological level. The desquamation that occurs as a result of the Thiel embalming process allows investigation to establish both where the separation of the skin layers occurs, but also at which point during the exposure of the skin to a wet environment this separation might be expected to happen. The aim of the study is to establish a timeframe of epidermal desquamation and describe the histology of the separation process that occurs during the Thiel embalming process. Skin of the left hand thumb (N = 8) was sampled using a standard skin biopsy punch prior to embalming and then in weekly intervals for up to six weeks after immersion in the embalming fluid. The skin was then fixed in formalin, dehydrated in ascending concentrations of ethanol, and paraffin-embedded. Microtome skin sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin and visualised using light microscopy. The initial results confirmed complete desquamation of all epidermal layers. By week four of immersion in the embalming fluid, desquamation was completed in six out of eight individuals. As epidermal desquamation during embalming process exposes the dermal skin layer, Thiel-embalmed cadavers are suggested as suitable models for further research of dermal-epidermal fingerprint comparison.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2018
Event7th Doctoral School of the Ecole des Sciences Criminelles - Hotel Cristal, Saignelegier, Switzerland
Duration: 10 Sept 201813 Sept 2018


Conference7th Doctoral School of the Ecole des Sciences Criminelles


  • dermal fingerprints
  • epidermal desquamation
  • Thiel embalming
  • skin histology


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