Cell biology Intelligent Design

The genes that come to life after you die

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It sounds ghoulish but it could just be part of decomposition:

The idea that genes would activate after an organism’s death was unheard of, so the researchers wrote it off as a mistake with their instrumentation. But repeated tests, in fish and then in mice, continued to bear out the impossible: genes activating hours, or even days, after an organism died.

The scientists’ findings were met with skepticism, until a group of researchers led by Roderic Guigó at Barcelona’s Centre for Genomic Regulation also found post-mortem gene activity, this time in humans. “We were saved when the group from the Barcelona genome institute covered the paper on humans, because they … proved the same thing,” says Noble.

Kate Golembiewski, “After You Die, These Genes Come to Life” at Discover Magazine

The most likely explanation is that death is a process of shutting down, rather than an instant when everything stops. The genes to grow a spinal column, for example, resurfaced but maybe they had been suppressed because the deceased already had one. Still much to learn but that’s a good hypothesis to test.

We might learn some things about development quite unexpectedly this way.

See also: Reproductive stem cells have system to fight off jumping genes

and

De we really live longer because of longevity genes? Researchers cast doubt.

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One Reply to “The genes that come to life after you die

  1. 1
    Fasteddious says:

    As suggested in the article, perhaps the zombie genes were kept dormant by normal cell regulatory processes, and when those were disrupted, the genes began to be expressed. Also, the postmortem active human genes were in organs donated for transplant, so of course, those organs were not truly dead and one would hope for some gene activity in them. Or perhaps I misread the article?

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