Scientists have recently discovered that hundreds of genes used in the growth and development of life begin functioning after death.
The discovery, and subsequent papers published on the subject where hundreds of genes continue to “express” long after death, and more interestingly activate after death opens up the possibility of aiding organ transplants, and the real question of when death actually occurs.
In a new series, ZRS will explore this topic, and why death is always a moving target.
Microbiologist Peter Noble of the University of Washington recently publish two papers that further blurs the line between life and death. Noble said that he was inspired by an earlier study by Forensic Science International, that discovered many genes continued to function for as much as 12 hours after the death in human cadavers.
This new study centered around investigating the messenger RNA (mRNA – an important molecule used in the transmission of genetic information) in recently deceased mice and zebrafish. What they found was that genetic activity continued for 2 days in the mice and 4 days in the zebrafish, after death.
But more astonishing was the the observation of hundreds of genes in both animals firing up within 24 hours of death.
But more astonishing was the observation of hundreds of genes in both animals firing up within 24 hours of death. Noble believes that this is caused by the death of a network of genes that suppress these dormant genes while the animals are alive. With these suppression genes no longer functioning, these other genes are allowed to “come to life.” The question is, what do these genes do, and what are they for?
Additional study discovered that many of these genes are the same genes active, ironically during the embryonic stage of the animal. These genes seem to be the same used while the animal progresses through the stages of embryogenesis (the formation and development of an embryo). Essentially they are used to create a fully formed life.
Without the safeguards of the other genes, these newly awakened genes can also become cancerous. Noble believes this is one of the reasons why organ transplants fail.
But it’s not a huge leap from this study and its results, to imagine a time in a controlled experiment when these naturally occurring resurrected genes that are used specifically to promote development (and are only activated at death), can resurrect the entire life form, kickstart it back into “life,” or cause it to grow and mutate into… something else.
Without our full understanding of what exactly these genes do, what kind of life form would be the result?