LONDON: New research shows that certain genes spring back to life following death. Experts have been analysing them and hope to use them to more accurately state the time of death, as well as the cause.
Throughout our lifetimes, our DNA is monitored by a compound called mRNA which essentially translates genetic information to how proteins are coded.
It had been thought that mRNA levels would completely drop off after death but by analysing the levels of the compound in brains and livers of mice and zebrafish after their demise, scientists have discovered that there is a spike in the levels of mRNA in certain genes.
Of the 36,811 zebrafish genes they looked at, 548 came back to life, and of the 37,368 mouse genes, 515 came back. However, all came back at different times.
By analysing the mRNA levels, the scientists were then able to work backwards and accurately state when the animals had died, according to the study published in BioRxiv.
The authors wrote of the study: “We initially thought that sudden death of a vertebrate would be analogous to a car driving down a highway and running out of gas.
“This finding is surprising because in our car analogy, one would not expect window wipers to suddenly turn on and the horn to honk several days after running out of gas.
“Since the postmortem upregulation of genes occurred in both the zebrafish and the mouse in our study, it is reasonable to suggest that other multicellular eukaryotes [forms of life] will display a similar phenomenon.”