In the truth is very much stranger than fiction category, apparently stem cells survive after death and researchers yesterday reported being able to culture live, dormant stem cells from corpses that were 17 days old! While we’ve been going over “fake stem cell research firsts” this past few weeks, this one is a freaky first! What’s more amazing is that past research was able to procure live stem cells from bodies that were 2 days dead, so maybe it’s not a freaky first, just a bizarre one (I missed that one). The cadavers were kept in the fridge and the stem cells isolated were able to give rise to skeletal muscle. What’s amazing is that the cells were able to survive without oxygen. This is certainly a significant extension of the fact that most adult stem cells love a low oxygen environment in their native state. The researchers were also able to do the same with 14 day old dead mice and more significantly, those cells were able to repair tissue in living mice. Also interesting was the fact that the stem cells were in a sort of “suspended animation” allowing them to survive at a very low metabolic rate. The upshot? Dammmnnnn… you can’t make this stuff up. The fact that these cells can go into a dormant state and survive long periods of very harsh conditions will open up a whole new area of stem cell biology. The possibilities are endless. On the really esoteric side, stem cells could be taken from a few hour old corpse and reverted back to embryonic cells which could theoretically be used for cloning. On the practical side, understanding this dormant state may have implications for combating aging, as figuring out a way to kick dormant stem cells into action may help rejuvenate old tissues! In the meantime, you have to wonder whether this may be the genesis of the zombie legends…did our ancestors know this? I’ll certainly be looking around a few more corners at Halloween this year!
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…