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'Zombie' genes, perhaps? According to a study, specific genes in the brain come to life after death.

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Recently, a group of scientists discovered genes that seemed to come to life after the person had died.


The researchers, who are based at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), were studying a sample of fresh brain tissue when they noticed that the genes in glial cells, which participate in the brain's inflammatory process, actually grew more prominent amid death's presence, according to Science Daily.


The glial cells were observed to expand and sprout long, arm-like appendages long after the subject had died, earning them the moniker "zombie" genes. 


Although this phenomenon isn't shocking, according to Dr. Jeffrey Loeb, the John S. Garvin Professor and head of neurology and recovery at the University of Illinois at Chicago, what is significant is what these cells' post-mortem growth means.



See, much of the research on degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer's uses brain tissue from deceased people as a primary source of knowledge or possible treatments. 


Dr. Loeb and his team found that although the activity of "zombie" genes peaked for around 12 hours after the brain had died, the movement of other cells essential for brain activity such as memory was rapidly declining.


Although the team's results don't portend any imminent "Walking Dead"-style scenarios, they change how scientists treat such brain tissue in future studies.


"Our results do not imply that we should abandon human tissue research programs; rather, researchers should consider these genetic, cellular changes and shorten the post-mortem interval as much as possible to minimize the extent of these changes," Loeb notes


“The good news is that we now know which genes and cell types are stable, which decay, and which increase over time, helping us to understand the effects of postmortem brain studies better.”

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