A so called ‘zombie gene’ which scientists had believed to be extinct, has been rediscovered, according to research conducted by an Irish scientist.

Dr. Anne Parle-McDermott, of Dublin City University (DCU) said the discovery will have important implications for cancer research.

Conditions such as cancer and spina bifida could potentially benefit from the research as the gene could represent a new drug target that could potentially aid cancer treatment.

Led by Dr Anne Parle-McDermott of the School of Biotechnology in DCU, the results have just been published in  the journal, ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.’

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“Using advances in DNA analysis techniques and the completion of the Human Genome sequence, we have demonstrated that DHFRL1 is not a dead gene, but is very much ‘alive’ and functional,” Dr Parle-McDermott.

“This now brings into question the many other so-called human pseudogenes, and whether or not they are also alive.

“Our findings call for a reassessment of many human pseudogenes and urges researchers to challenge the assumptions made in the past. It is possible that given the many of the thousands of known pseudogenes, many more may not be zombies at all”, she said.