Cells continue to function in the body after death: study

Cells in our body continue to function even after the death of an individual, according to a scientific study published in Nature Communications.

An international team of scientists, analysing post-mortem samples, showed that some genes became more active after death.

Not only will this provide an important dataset for other scientists, they also hope that this can be developed into a forensic tool.

Life plays out in the cells in our bodies, under the powerful influence of our genes.

The outputs of genes are controlled by a range of internal and external triggers.

According to experts, understanding gene activity offers precise insight into the activity of individual cells, tissues and organs, in health and in disease.

Genes reside in the DNA present in our cells and when they are switched on, a tell-tale molecule called an RNA transcript is made.

Some of the RNA directly controls processes that occurring in the cell, but most of the RNA becomes the blueprint for proteins.

Scientists often measure the RNA transcripts to know what is going on in our cells, and we this analysis is called transcriptomics.

Meanwhile, scientists in Spain and Portugal have discovered that by working backwards from the posthumous changes in gene activity, it is possible to calculate the time of death fairly accurately.

The technique involves analysis of a messenger molecule called RNA. According to the team, death triggered a ''cascade of transcriptional events'' as the body unleashes a frenzy of genetic switch-flicking and other processes.

According to Roderic Guigó, a computational biologist at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona and an author of the study, forensic scientists may be able to use the RNA ''fingerprints'' from a few particular body parts to arrive at a relatively precise estimate of when death occurred. The research is however at a preliminary stage.