Zombie Genes Spur Brain Cells to Grow After Death
FRIDAY, March 26, 2021 (HealthDay News) – When people die, some cells in their brain go on for hours, even becoming more active and reaching gargantuan proportions, new research shows.
Awareness of this activity, stimulated by “zombie genes”, could affect research into diseases that affect the brain.
For the study, the researchers analyzed gene expression using fresh brain tissue taken during routine surgery and found that in some cells, gene expression increased after death. Researchers observed that inflammatory glial cells grew and grew long, arm-like appendages for many hours after death.
“Most studies assume that everything in the brain shuts down when the heart stops beating, but it doesn’t,” said corresponding author Dr. Jeffrey Loeb. He is responsible for neurology and rehabilitation at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.
Gene expression is the process by which DNA instructions are converted into instructions for making proteins or other molecules, according to Yourgenome.org.
“That glial cells enlarge after death is not too surprising given that they are inflammatory and their job is to clean things up after brain damage like oxygen deprivation or a stroke,” said Loeb said in a college press release.
The implications are significant, he added.
Most research that uses human brain tissue after death to find potential cures and cures for disorders (such as autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease) ignores continued gene expression. or cellular activity.
“Our results will be needed to interpret research on human brain tissue,” Loeb said. “We just haven’t quantified these changes so far.”
Loeb is director of UI NeuroRepository, a bank that stores brain tissue from patients with neurological disorders, with consent. The tissue is collected and stored after the death of patients or during surgery. Not all tissues are needed for diagnosing the disease, so some can be used for research.
Loeb and his team noticed that patterns of gene expression in fresh brain tissue did not match any published findings of gene expression in tissues analyzed after death.
So they conducted a mock experiment examining the expression of all human genes immediately after death up to 24 hours later.
About 80% of the genes analyzed remained relatively stable for 24 hours. These included genes that provide basic cellular functions. Another group of genes involved in brain activity (such as memory, thinking, and seizure activity) rapidly degraded within hours of death.
A third group of genes – the “zombie genes” – became more active as the other genes slowed down. These changes peaked at 12 noon.
Loeb said the results mean researchers need to take these changes into account and reduce the time between death and study as much as possible to limit the magnitude of those changes.
“The good news from our findings is that we now know which genes and cell types are stable, which degrade and which increase over time, so that the results of postmortem brain studies can be better understood.” , did he declare.
The results were published on March 23 in the journal Scientific reports.
The Healthy Brain Initiative of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias.
SOURCE: University of Illinois Chicago, press release, March 23, 2021
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