This cell activity, involving study of brain tissue removed during operations, is an exercise in futility:
These ‘zombie genes’ — those that increased expression after the post-mortem interval — were specific to one type of cell: inflammatory cells called glial cells. The researchers observed that glial cells grow and sprout long arm-like appendages for many hours after death.
“That glial cells enlarge after death isn’t too surprising given that they are inflammatory and their job is to clean things up after brain injuries like oxygen deprivation or stroke,” said Dr. Jeffrey Loeb, the John S. Garvin Professor and head of neurology and rehabilitation at the UIC College of Medicine and corresponding author on the paper.
What’s significant, Loeb said, is the implications of this discovery — most research studies that use postmortem human brain tissues to find treatments and potential cures for disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, do not account for the post-mortem gene expression or cell activity…
They found that about 80% of the genes analyzed remained relatively stable for 24 hours — their expression didn’t change much. These included genes often referred to as housekeeping genes that provide basic cellular functions and are commonly used in research studies to show the quality of the tissue. Another group of genes, known to be present in neurons and shown to be intricately involved in human brain activity such as memory, thinking and seizure activity, rapidly degraded in the hours after death. These genes are important to researchers studying disorders like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, Loeb said.
A third group of genes — the ‘zombie genes’ — increased their activity at the same time the neuronal genes were ramping down. The pattern of post-mortem changes peaked at about 12 hours.University of Illinois at Chicago, “‘Zombie’ genes? Research shows some genes come to life in the brain after death” at ScienceDaily
Maybe those genes are kind of like a school bureaucracy happily presiding over a school with no students or teachers.
The paper is open access.
2 Replies to “Some cells increase gene expression after death”
Calling glial cells “inflammatory” is way too simple. They don’t just work in disasters. They work all the time, clearing out inactive neurons, keeping myelin solid, and maintaining resonances between axons that function in a balanced circuit, among dozens of other duties.
Reminds me that there is a whole lot more to “me” than the conscious mind I think of as “I”. May the Force be with us all.