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'Zombie genes' grow in the brain after death

The vast majority of doctors believe that the brain stops working after a person loses their life. And yet, a recent American study claims that certain genes come back to life after death. Researchers also claim that these genes develop appendages that are shaped like arms.

"Zombie genes" coming back to life after death

In 2017, Canadian doctors observed persistent brain activity for up to ten minutes after the clinical death of a terminally ill patient. These were bursts of delta waves , the same type of brain waves typically seen in deep sleep. In the absence of any biological explanation, the doctors had claimed that it could be an error at the time of the recording although the equipment showed no signs of malfunction.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports on March 23, 2021, a research team from the University of Illinois at Chicago (USA) talks about of "zombie genes". Scientists suggest an increase in the activity of these genes up to several hours following the death of a person. In addition, these genes acquire arm-like appendages. How is this possible?

 Zombie genes  grow in the brain after death

A vocation to "clean house"

As part of this work, the researchers analyzed "fresh" brain tissue from a sample taken during brain surgery from a person with neurological disorder. According to the results, about 80% of the genes in question showed some stability for 24 hours. Three groups of genes were then identified. These include housekeeping genes that ensure basic cellular functions and genes present in neurons that play a role in brain activity. Finally, there were the zombie genes whose activity increased after the neural genes were degraded.

The discovery of brain genes that come to life after death is obviously surprising. However, scientists believe that this is not very surprising. According to them, these zombie genes have the mission of "cleaning up" after brain damage such as oxygen deprivation or stroke. This could explain the presence of the appendix.

In a 2016 study, a team from the University of Washington found similar results in some animals, specifically mice and zebrafish. The researchers said they had found more than 1,063 active genes , some of which activate only 24 hours after death. Some of these genes coded for proteins, while the others were regulatory genes. This showed that significant energy is still used to keep the system in order after death.