Stem Cells Live In Dead Bodies
Stem cells can exist and even divide into new, functioning cells long after a person's death, a group of French scientists found. They hope the new knowledge could be used to help repair damaged tissue.
"Remarkably, skeletal muscle stem cells can survive for 17 days in humans and 16 days in mice, post mortem well beyond the 1-2 days currently thought," they said in a statement.
Previous research had shown that stem cells survived in 2-day old cadavers, and scientists have commonly thought that a dead body with no oxygen or nutrients would be a poor home for cells to live in. But the fact that they were found 17 days after a person had died is astonishing.
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"These cells are so resistant to extreme and deleterious conditions that they stay alive up to 17 days after death," said Neuropathologist Fabrice Chrétien at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and one of the authors of the paper.
The stem cells from the mice were injected into a healthy mouse, and they began integrating themselves as normal stem cells would do.
The stem cells found were in a state of extreme dormancy and low metabolism. The scientists are interested in how to induce this state in a cell. This might lead to better cell storage and new cell therapies. One theory is the chemicals given off by the body after it dies might be the inducing factor.
This doesn't mean that we should begin harvesting dead bodies, however.
"We are not saying that we will use old cadavers for treating patients," Chrétien stressed. "For clinical applications we don't have to wait so long, but just obtain cells from cadavers only a few hours after death."