Could our genes continue thriving even though we have passed on? A new animal study suggests that genes continue to work up to 48 hours after death.
The study, from the University of Washington, looked at mRNA levels in zebra fish and mice after they died, and compared them to pre-death levels. They found that while overall mRNA levels wound down, 548 zebrafish genes and 515 mouse genes showed activity spikes up to two days after death. The active genes included those associated with fetal development, stress, and cancer, among others. According to an article in New Scientist, the same process may occur in humans.
Why these genes wake up hours or days after death is uncertain. The New Scientist reports:
These findings might have implications for organ transplants and even for determining a more precise time of death in humans.