Turns out there is life after death.
Turns out there is life after death. Liya Graphics/shutterstock.com

Gene Activity Persists After Death: Gene expression is the biological process in which information encoded in DNA is transcribed into RNA and then translated into observable traits. It’s the fundamental mechanism determining an organism’s structure and function throughout its life cycle—and now, according to research by University of Washington microbiologist Peter Noble and colleagues, we know it even persists after the organism’s death . Building off earlier studies that showed limited levels of gene expression in human cadavers, the team systematically examined activity levels in over 1000 genes in rat and zebrafish tissues up to 96 hours post mortem. Contrary to expectations that gene expression activity would taper off after death, hundreds of genes ramped up activity in the first 24 hours, with some remaining active as long as four days later. Intriguingly, many of the active genes are associated with development, possibly because embryos and corpses have similar cellular conditions.

A preprint article describing their research is available here. Its title? A portmanteau invoking both the Greek personification of death and the transcriptome.

Climate Scientists, Carbon Footprints, and Credibility: While halting climate change will hinge on international political will and abandoning the blind pursuit of economic growth—not the personal carbon footprints of climate scientists—researchers who use less energy in their personal and professional lives are seen as more credible by the public, a recent study found. And climate scientists who are viewed as more credible can be more effective surrogates in the war to win over the hearts and minds of deniers. Unfortunately, academia provides its own obstacles to reducing emissions, incentivizing air travel for collaboration and conferences. As UW College of the Environment professor Abigal Swan puts it, the cultural expectation in science "hasn't caught up with this idea [that] we should be flying less."

Ocean Acidification Alters Fish/Jellyfish Symbiosis: While we know ocean acidification will have widespread, harmful impacts on marine life, its effect on the interactions between organisms remains poorly known. A study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society begins to fill some of this knowledge gap, demonstrating that under predicted end-of-century oceanic CO2 levels, a symbiotic relationship in which juvenile fish find protection in jellyfish tentacles begins to break down. We can expect the disruption of this relationship to have an impact on other life forms. Life is always other life.