Zombie Genes Thursday Open Comments

When do we actually die?

Doctors in a Canadian intensive care unit have stumbled on a very strange case – when life support was turned off for four terminal patients, one of them showed persistent brain activity even after they were declared clinically dead.

For more than 10 minutes after doctors confirmed death through a range of observations, including the absence of a pulse and unreactive pupils, the patient appeared to experience the same kind of brain waves (delta wave bursts) we get during deep sleep. And it’s an entirely different phenomenon to the sudden ‘death wave’ that’s been observed in rats following decapitation.

Then there the cases of genes that actually FIRE UP after death!

Led by microbiologist Peter Noble, a team from the University of Washington has been investigating the gene activity in deceased mice and zebrafish, prompted by previous research that identified a handful of genes in human cadavers that were active more than 12 hours after death.

The researchers ended up identifying more than 1,000 genes that were still functioning even days after death, but it wasn’t like they were taking a bit longer to sputter out than the rest of the body – they actually increased their activity.

In mice, 515 genes were seen kicking into gear, and were functioning at full capacity up to 24 hours after death. In the zebrafish, 548 genes retained their function for four whole days after the animals had died before showing any signs of winding down.

Some of these zombie genes are developmental, some of them not so beneficial:

What’s maybe even stranger than that is the fact that these ‘postmortem’ genes weren’t just any genes, they were the kind of genes that ramp up during emergencies.

As Mitch Leslie reports for Science Magazine, we’re talking about tasks like stimulating inflammation, firing up the immune system, and counteracting stress. Some of the genes they identified usually switch on to help form an embryo, and then are never heard of again… except after death, apparently.

“What’s jaw-dropping is that developmental genes are turned on after death,” Noble told Leslie.

It’s not all beneficial genes, though, the team also found that certain genes that promote cancer growth also sparked after death in these animals, prompting the researchers to suggest that in a newly deceased corpse, the body reverts to the cellular conditions of a rapidly developing embryo.

“While transplantation is a life-saving therapy… it also puts recipients at an increased risk for developing cancer, in part because of medications…,” says Eric A. Engels of the US National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute.
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The crazy amounts of immune-suppressing drugs transplant recipients have to take to make sure their body doesn’t reject the organ could partly explain the heightened risk of cancer, but active postmortem genes in the organ could also be at play, Noble told Science Magazine.

Interesting. When we die, it seems our body tries to revive itself up to days later, and in the process turns on developmental genes AND cancerous genes as well. That makes sense – they are both involved in rapid reproduction and growth of cells. The impact this could have on transplant patients is profound – treating them for cancer as part of their rejection therapy.

Maybe this is why zombies look the way they do.

Puts “born again Christian” in a whole new light, too.

Thursday Obit Open Comments

Well, we’ve finally scheduled Dad’s funeral. I’m working on the worship aid for his mass, and I’m including an obituary on the last page. Heck, just listing his offspring takes up a large part of that page. I came across this page and found some interesting obits, to wit:

“Ida Mae had a rich but strict childhood. Ida graduated from Messick High School in 1950 and attended Memphis State University. Ida married High School friend, Karl Hadaway. On January 31, 1953, a child was born named Mary Denise. The marriage decayed and the couple divorced in 1954. Ida’s marriage to Karl was a three ring circus, engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering. Ida met and married Albert Sills in 1960. Ida said “I never knew what real happiness was until I got remarried, then it was too late”.”

“Weary of reading obituaries noting someone’s courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors’ orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.”

And then the one that almost made me cry:

“I was given the gift of life, and now I have to give it back. This is hard. But I was a lucky woman, who led a lucky existence, and for this I am grateful. I first got sick in January 2010. When the cancer recurred last year and was terminal, I decided to be joyful about having had a full life, rather than sad about having to die. Amazingly, this outlook worked for me. (Well, you know, most of the time.) Meditation and the study of Buddhist philosophy also helped me accept what I could not change. At any rate, I am at peace. And on that upbeat note, I take my mortal leave of this rollicking, revolving world-this sun, that moon, that walk around Green Lake, that stroll through the Pike Place Market, the memory of a child’s hand in mine.”

Makes me think about my future obituary and what I want it to say. I’ve told my daughter that my headstone can say “…so much,” as in —

    I love you…so much
    I like to laugh…so much
    I feel…so much

I love looking at really old headstones. They have some good quotes on them.

Now, the obituary…

Thursday Worse than Politics Open Comments

I was waiting for this, but it sends chills up and down my spine.

…we could lose a century of progress and find ourselves dying in the millions from tuberculosis, just like our 19th-century ancestors.

I was exposed to TB as a child, and had to have lung x-rays every year until I went to college. It was active for a short time, and I have some lesions that show up on x-rays, but my body managed to fight it off before I even knew I was sick. Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones; I might have some immunity.

According to the original report, published Dec. 21 in Clinical Infectious Diseases, a hospital in Mumbai, India had identified 12 TB patients whose disease resisted all antibiotics. Nothing worked with them. All the patients appeared to have strains of TB known as multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) and extremely drug resistant (XDR-TB).

Ever since the advent of sulfa drugs and penicillin, we have been locked in an arms race with bacteria. Antibiotics originally had wonderfully lethal effects on many infections. But in some cases a few bacteria had genetic resistance to a given drug, or the treatment wasn’t long or intense enough. Either way, the survivors learned to best such drugs. We came up with new drugs, and again they worked — until a few bacteria survived and multiplied.

What have we wrought? We now have a society of people whose immunity has not been tested, especially against a strain of superbugs. I remember when Handsome Son had a string of ear infections. We went from antibiotic to antibiotic, ending up with one that cost $3.10 per teaspoon. I swore that if he knocked it on the floor, he was going to lick it up from wherever it landed. Fortunately, he was a calm child, and we never had to test my determination in the matter. It was alarming that the regular antibiotics had already become so ineffective in such a short period of time. I was diligent in giving him all of his medications, never shorting the dosages.

Will we end up like the aliens in “War of the Worlds,” who were killed not by the humans they hunted, but by the smallest residents of the planet they wanted to dominate. What will be ironic is that we will have created our own demise.

So the prospect of untreatable TB is a disturbing one. WHO notes that in the Americas, only 2.1 persons per 100,000 die of TB. With a totally drug-resistant strain, that rate could easily exceed Africa’s current rate of 50 deaths per 100,000.

I have hopes that our collective intellect will find a way of protecting humanity from succumbing to ourselves.

Friday “Shake It Up” Open Comments

First off, my prayers and hopeful wishes to the people in Japan, suffering from that massive earthquake.  May the death and destruction be as limited as possible, and their recovery swift and strong.

My daughter and a group of her classmates were scheduled to leave for Japan this morning.  Needless to say, she is back in her bed, sleeping after waking up at 4:00 am to board the plane.  Her teacher thinks they may leave on Sunday.  Lovely Daughter and I think it’s best they just scratch their trip.  I’m sure the Japanese would love to have all those American dollars, but right now digging out of the rubble is their main priority.

My big question:  How will this affect the world economy, with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel?

The unions continue to try to shake up the legislators and bully them into allowing the unions to continue their seemingly unfettered power.  Death threats against legislators, overwhelming the police force trying to control them, threatening citizen journalists (or anyone with a video camera without the union designation) with physical pain, property destruction – and yet I wonder how much of this bad behavior is being reported on the mainstream news?  And how is this lack of coverage going to make the MSM look?  I mean, there are so many people on the internet these days, and those videos are out in the public…but then, Katie Couric and her ilk cannot be bothered with those pajama media types.

But those types of people practically shut down ACORN, took a huge bite out of Planned Parenthood, and are giving NPR a migraine.  Yeah, go ahead ignore them.  Go ahead.  They are shaking up the news, and the MSM are merely holding onto the handrails, trying not to get tossed over the side.

Weekend Open Comments

Well, it looks like we’ve made it through another disaster!  None of us have frozen to death, the world hasn’t come to an end (yet), and we have survived to live another day. Despite the warnings that certain death and destruction that was certain to be visited upon us.

I don’t know about any of you, but I quit listening to the news after 15 minutes of coverage.  How many times do I need to hear “It’s darn cold out thar!” and see pictures of ice before I get the message?  Does the mainstream media think we’re that so stupid that it takes endless coverage for us to get the message? Or do they just enjoy boring us with the repetitive coverage?  And I am sure that there is nothing important going on in the world while we deal with weather issues.  And I am quite sure that we don’t need to be distracted while waiting for that certain death and destruction to be visited upon us.

I see the same thing with hurricane coverage. Give us hourly updates, five minutes at a time.  I mean, the weather scans are only going to change a certain amount, aren’t they?  Even half hour updates would be an improvement over continuous non-stop coverage.

Fires.  Big arrests. Celebrities in trouble.  Report the news and move on. Otherwise you are nothing more than annoying.

Denial of Mortality

Okay, this conversation will be a bit of a downer, but I consider this my personal PSA for the group: we are all going to die.

Not from man-made global warming.

Not from the idiocy in D.C., though it may seem that way. Especially if I run out of tape with which to wrap my head.

No, we’re all going to die from something at some time. It may an illness.  It may be from an accident.  But it cannot be denied.  Death is more democratic than taxes, as it will touch us all at some time, the rich along with the poor.

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