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Mar 29, 2021

‘Zombie’ genes? Research shows some genes come to life in the brain after death

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Studies on postmortem tissue may need to adjust for postmortem cell activity.


In the hours after we die, certain cells in the human brain are still active. Some cells even increase their activity and grow to gargantuan proportions, according to new research from the University of Illinois Chicago.

In a newly published study in the journal Scientific Reports, the UIC researchers analyzed gene expression in fresh brain tissue — which was collected during routine brain surgery — at multiple times after removal to simulate the post-mortem interval and death. They found that gene expression in some cells actually increased after death.

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.

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