It turns out that we all have ‘Zombie Genes’ but it’s not what you’re thinking of. No, we are not going to all turn into zombies or wake up after we are dead and decomposed.

What are Zombie Genes?

After we die, certain cells in the human body still remain active, even hours after. Some cells even increase their activity after we die and even grow to gargantuan proportions. In a newly published study from the University of Illinois, Chicago, researchers analyzed the gene expression in fresh tissue of the brain.

They collected the fresh brain samples during routine surgeries and simulated death and post-mortem interval. At that moment, they discovered that situation wasn’t as we always thought – the cells aren’t just dying.

The gene expression in some cells even got bigger, which was a shock for many. the ‘Zombie Genes’ which continued their work were actually one type of the cell – inflammatory cells called a glial cell.

They grow and sprout for many hours after death. Their job is actually to clean up the brain from injuries, like oxygen deprivation and stroke. Dr. Jeffrey Loeb, one of the scientists behind this explained why is this discovery so important.

“This could help us to use postmortem human brain tissues to find treatments for schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism. Most studies assume that brain activity stops as soon as the heart stops beating. Now we have proof that it’s not true.”

Simulating Death

Dr. Loeb and his team noticed that the global pattern of gene expression in fresh tissue was very different from postmortem. It was also different in people who had no neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s or autism.

They ran tests with multiple samples of the fresh brain tissue. By simulating death, they could look at these genes and track their progress and compare results. With this research, they can recognize which cells are stable, which degrade and which increase over time. It’s a small step but it opened a door to a potential cure for brain disorders.