back to article Genes take a shot at rebooting after death

In one of the creepiest bits of science Vulture South has ever encountered, a US scientist has identified 1,000 genes that become active after death. Not just immediately post-mortem, either: some of the genes in question, found in zebrafish, remained active four days after the fish died (and in mice, they were active two days …

  1. Youngone Silver badge

    Not sure at all

    I'm wondering if they really will help with determining the time of death.

    If people have any of these zebrafish genes, maybe the time of death winds up being next Tuesday.

    Or I'm overthinking it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Don't look now, but...

    ...it seems we're all latent zombies.

    Cool!

  3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Developmental genes that switch on after death, increasing the cancer risk of organ recipients - that's a bit like some creepy DRM mechanism to prevent reuse.

    I wonder whether genes like that could also have some sort of impact in cloning.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Boffin

      It makes sense to me. These genes would be active during development, but presumably during that development another gene comes along and turns them off (or else we would never stop growing).

      If the death of the gene suppressing the development gene dies, and whilst there is still some energy left in the system, the development genes turn on again, but there isn't enough energy in the system to sustain the growth, so they end up dying too.

      If we can identify the genes involved in the suppression, it could lead to things like limb re-regrowth, or spinal cord repair etc. - wow.

      1. Chemist

        "These genes would be active during development, but presumably during that development another gene comes along and turns them off (or else we would never stop growing)."

        Well gene expression and control is a lot more complicated than that. And some gene products are often involved in both development and normal adult function - the differential effect is often due to which tissues the expression continues in. It's really very, very complicated.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Holmes

          " It's really very, very complicated."

          :) ---->>

          I'm sure it is ;)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "It's really very, very complicated."

            Gene expression is not just complex, it's also kludgy to the max. Why, it's almost as if the genes worked it all out themselves, randomly...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Activation or stopping of suppression?

        "It looks almost like genes making a last-ditch attempt to keep things going"

        I agree with SRS that, rather than the genes being activated in an attempt to combat death, they become reactivated because the processes that suppresses their activity ceases; rather than an attempt to keep things going, it is a sign that things are terminally broken.

        Hmm... now what does that remind me of?

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: Activation or stopping of suppression?

          Indeed - the empty car speeding past may be driving itself, or it may more simply have had brake failure on an incline.

          The genetic code is hellaweird. e.g. There are probability-changing flags on the DNA spooling reels that govern which 'code' executes. One of them isn't so much "GOTO" as "don't not GOTO".

          We're used to pushing a program along, because nothing otherwise happens. It's used to impeding and blocking things too, as there's no such thing for it as 'nothing otherwise happens' - it's a sea of competing chemical reactions.

  4. RIBrsiq
    Holmes

    Not as exciting, I know, but I'm thinking this is more "breakdown of cellular control mechanisms" and less "fear the living dead".

    But certainly some more fiddling to find out what's going on is needed.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Trollface

      less "fear the living dead"

      For now.

      We'll revisit that sentence once the fiddling has been successful.

  5. Geoff Johnson

    Not that surprising

    These are probably just junk genes. Things only get evolved away if they have a detrimental effect during the useful lifetime of the organism.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Not that surprising

      If so, doesn't that make them zombie zombie genes?

    2. Chemist

      Re: Not that surprising

      "Things only get evolved away if they have a detrimental effect during the useful lifetime of the organism."

      Why do you think these genes have a detrimental effect during the living phase of an organism ? As they seems to include "immune system, inflammation, and responses to stress." genes. Many of the others may be switched on due to a breakdown in control as happens in, for example, cancer.

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Not that surprising

        Why do you think these genes have a detrimental effect during the living phase of an organism ?

        I think that was Geoff's point. There isn't so there is no selection pressure to shape post-mortem gene into anything useful.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Not that surprising

          "I think that was Geoff's point. There isn't so there is no selection pressure to shape post-mortem gene into anything useful."

          He also said "These are probably just junk genes."

          If they are "inflammatory, immune genes and responses to stress genes. " then they are essential not detrimental to the living phases

          1. Grikath

            Re: Not that surprising

            "If they are "inflammatory, immune genes and responses to stress genes. " then they are essential not detrimental to the living phases"

            Exactly this. In the living organism cell death plays a very significant role in ,for starters, development. Apoptose is a major mechanism, and in the end individual cells die al the time and need to be recycled in the living organism.

            It makes sense that there is a genetic mechanism that kicks in after cell death.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    Calling Mary Shelley

    Anybody else get the feeling Dr. Frankenstein was onto something?

    Yes, it's Friday, it's early, and that is my coat!

  7. Mellipop

    transcendence plot ending not that far fetched then

    So perhaps genes are some other life form's creation?

  8. Mage Silver badge

    Passing on genes?

    So dead creatures shouldn't be allowed to breed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Passing on genes?

      Not unless you want huge evil-smelling crowds of soiled zombies coming out of your lavatory and infringing your personal freedoms.

  9. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    Terry pratchett quote

    Granny Weatherwax:

    " I aint ded"

  10. Adrian Midgley 1

    Or it is just broken

    and thrashing about

  11. Lotaresco

    Immortality Inc

    Blimey, Bob Sheckley's novel is real.

  12. You aint sin me, roit
    Terminator

    Zombies?

    Explains why you should hang beef for at least 20 days!

  13. Morrie Wyatt
    Angel

    You have to wonder

    Do these genes speak in small caps, and ride a horse named Binky?

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