Discovery of genes that come alive postmortem could redefine death

Discovery of Genes That Come Alive Postmortem Could Redefine Death

Death may seem to cause all bodily processes to stop functioning, but new research has found that some of the body may remain alive for days afterwards.

According to New Scientist, researchers at the University of Washington discovered hundreds of genes in zebrafish and mice to be active after the animals died.

In fact, the team determined that a total of 1,063 genes between the two species underwent a noticeable change up to 96 hours after death.

And while other genetic material appeared to wind down, some of these materials seemed to become more energized from 30 minutes to 24 and 48 hours postmortem.

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Matthew Porteus, 51, professor of pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine, holds test tubes of DNA to use for gene editing of stem cells at Lokey Stem Cell lab at Stanford University in Stanford Calif., on Dec. 18, 2015. (John Green/Bay Area News Group/TNS via Getty Images)
Matthew Porteus, 51, professor of pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine, pipettes DNA to use for gene editing of stem cells at Lokey Stem Cell lab at Stanford University in Stanford Calif., on Dec. 18, 2015. (John Green/Bay Area News Group/TNS via Getty Images)
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The engaged genes were related to specific processes like the regulation of stress, inflammation, immunity, and even cancer, among others.

While these functions could indicate an effort to rebalance the system, the researchers believe that they are more likely working to shut the body down.

Past studies have indicated that some human genes also seem to remain active for hours after a person has died.

The findings from the latest study could influence the way how human organ transplants are approached and how we define death, notes New Scientist.

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