General, Research, Technology

Scientists have discovered "zombie genes" in the brain that are active after death

We all think that we are aware of our ownmortality. But this is just another illusion, skillfully created by the brain. Back in 2019, Israeli scientists figured out that we don't really believe that we're going to die. Our brain perceives the departure from life as something that happens only to others, trying to protect itself from thoughts about the inevitability of death. Yet there are people on Earth who face and study death on a daily basis. I propose to talk about the latter in more detail, because the reason is very suitable. As the results of a study by American scientists have shown, at least a day after death, gene expression is observed in the cortex of the human brain - the process of converting hereditary information from a gene into a protein or RNA (functional product). In fact, some of the genes in the brain become more active, enhancing cell growth. This article discusses what “zombie genes” are and why they should be taken into account in posthumous studies of brain tissue, as well as in the study of neurological and mental diseases.

Genes have been found in the brain that become more active after death.

Examining the brain

The brain is the least studied human organbodies, although the Sapiens have tried for centuries to get inside the cranium to understand how everything works there. The path to modern knowledge of the brain was largely paved by the French surgeon Paul Broca. In the 19th century, he was one of the first to suspect that different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions... Broca came to this conclusion by studying speech disorders in some of his patients; he linked them to a malfunction of certain parts of the brain.

Science has advanced far ahead today.More recently, for example, scientists have finally understood why the human brain is larger than the brain of other mammals and primates in particular. It turned out to be the fault of the expression of a gene called ZEB2, which controls brain growth. This appears to allow neurons in the human brain to divide more actively into adulthood. You can read more about why scientists grew gorilla and human brain organelles in the laboratory here.

Studying the work of the brain not only during life but also after death is of great importance in human self-knowledge.

It is important to note that the study of the human brainStudying the brain of animals is not the same thing, since the results of experiments on animals do not transfer well to humans. Interestingly, most human brain research is done more than 12 hours after death. Meanwhile, a better understanding of what happens to the brain when the heart is no longer beating could shed light on the nature of a number of neurological diseases.

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What happens to the brain after death?

Let's start with the fact that not all zombies are thirstybrains, some actually live inside them, if, of course, I can put it that way. The fact is that after death, undead cells “grow hands” and it may seem as if they are alive (well, or more alive than others). Scientists call such cells glial cells.

Results of a new study published inThe journal Scientific Reports showed that glial cells express genes long after other types of brain cells have ceased to function. This phenomenon refutes the idea that all processes in the body stop after cardiac arrest.

Since the normal function of glial cells isit is the protection of life, they make their last attempts to restore the normal course of things, so that they express posthumously. As one of the study's authors Fabienne Dachet pointed out to SYFY WIRE, the same genes are activated after brain injury or stroke and are involved in neuroinflammation.

You will be interested: Secrets of the brain: is euphoria really awaiting us before death?

The study found a surprising amount of activity in genes unique to glial cells after mimicking the death of human tissue.

Interestingly, these "zombie genes" are observedfor the first time, since most studies of (presumably) human dead brain tissue were conducted 12 hours or more after death. Previous studies have neglected the study of brain tissue just separated from the oxygenated blood supply. As it turned out, it was at this time that glial cells grow those eerie appendages that scientists see. The tissue was examined in different laboratories for 24 hours. 80 percent of the genes in the brain survived the entire period.

It is noteworthy that the first to die are neuronalgenes that are responsible for thinking and memory in neurons. This fact, according to the authors of the new study, is really important when studying the functions of the brain and its diseases.

This is interesting: What happens to the brain when a loved one dies?

Unlike non-neuronal glial cells,neurons die without oxygen. The human brain requires ten times more energy than any other organ in the body. You can pass out in a matter of seconds if blood suddenly stops flowing to your brain. When oxygen or energy plummets, it can cause permanent damage and even death of cells in the brain of a person who has suffered a stroke or injury.

When neurons (blue) die, glial cells (red) turn into zombies.

Neuronal genes are activity-dependent, whichmeans they can undergo radical changes due to brain activity, such as seizures. With the degradation of neuronal genes, the activity of the zombified genes simultaneously increased for 12 hours.

Glial cells become zombies because of their ownprotective functions that are activated if one part of the brain loses oxygen, and the other is barely enough. In the studied segment of dead brain tissue, the glial response that the genes produce was found everywhere. In the future, these results may change the understanding and treatment of many neurological disorders.

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