There may be nothing less comforting to those who fear flesh-eating zombies roaming the streets than being told humans already harbor the so-called zombie gene in their DNA structure. Geneticists have uncovered non-coding genes dotting the human genome that can well scientifically speaking: rise from the dead.

Zombie genes, more commonly in scientific circles referred to as non-coding genes are really no laughing matter. These genes can self-start after long dead cycles and cause serious health consequences including many forms of the degenerating muscular dystrophy disease.

Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy or simply FSHD is genetic in origin and passes from generation to generation in human DNA. FSHD is a very serious gene in that it affects 100% of those who have it making it one of the more problematic finds in genetic predispositions to illness. While the disease has been well studied over the years, its origin or cause for activation in the human body has long remained secret. Scientists reporting in the medical journal Science have just reported that muscular dystrophy is in fact initiated in the human body through the regeneration of these so-called zombie or non-coding genes.

How a zombie gene comes to life

The activation or regeneration of a zombie gene is much less dramatic than that of the latest zombie movie. Non-coded genes are present in each and every human being: so why do they only come back to life in some? Inflammation is the key to what suddenly makes a dead gene an active one ready to cause some damage. When there is an inflammatory response in the human body, the body does its best to send in immunological cells to fight off the infection or virus. When active, these cells must not only heal the infection or virus, but “turn off” themselves after their work to avoid damaging healthy tissue.

A typical zombie gene, such as the “Lethe” gene works to produce long non-coding RNA (IncRNA) which does not transform into a protein as would normal RNA. The Lethe gene type IncRNA instead lie dormant and don’t react like normal RNA/DNA to perform an action after receiving a signal. They are essentially in effect, dead. However introduce a certain infection and these genes spring back to life leading scientists to wonder if they are in fact “dead” or just waiting for very specific inflammation caused messages from the body.

A disturbing discovery with a silver lining

While most would agree the thought of a potentially life altering ailment lying dormant in our genes waiting to be “awakened from the dead is quite terrifying, there is some good news. From a scientific point of view the discovery of these genes “lying in wait” can open the doors to finding out a potential treatment. Additionally as scientists continue to explore these once believed dead genes can actually regenerate and make us sick, there exists the opportunity to trace many other existing ailments which plague our bodies back to these same non-coding type genes.

For the world of muscular dystrophy cure research, the news of the zombie gene was received with much enthusiasm and praise. Muscular dystrophy or MD affects several hundred thousand mostly male children across the world, typically leading to the loss of ability to walk and premature death.

Further reading

Since the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crook, genetic research has moved leaps forward. Recently links between depression and genes seem to have been identified, possibly allowing another dimension that helps us understand the organic cause behind these mental illnesses even further. Read more about this.

One of the most debilitating old age diseases, Alzheimer’s has also been subject of much genetic investigation. What genes are responsible for Alzheimer’s dimensia? What are the hereditary aspects of the disease? Click here to read more.