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Biotech Science

Mitochondria and the Prevention of Death 453

Posted by kdawson
from the wrestling-the-dead-back-to-life dept.
H_Fisher writes "Research into mitochondria — small structures within a cell that have their own DNA — suggests that they may be a cause of cellular death, according to Newsweek. The article The Science of Death: Reviving the Dead reports on people who have recovered from sudden death due to cardiac arrest through the use of medically induced hypothermia. The cooling process may help stop the death of brain and heart cells initiated by the mitochondria once they are deprived of oxygen. The article goes on to probe delicately at the question of where a person's personality 'is' between death and later revival, and describes several ongoing scientific studies of near-death experiences."
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Mitochondria and the Prevention of Death

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  • Re:Brilliant (Score:5, Informative)

    by RatPh!nk (216977) <ratpH1nk AT gMail DOT com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:06PM (#19883799)
    You are totally correct, we have known about them forever. There are however, apoptotic pathways that do not directly involve mitochondria in the same central way cytochrome C/cardiolipin/caspase cascades do. So again, "death" is much, much more complicated. Cheers
  • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:21PM (#19883899) Homepage Journal

    Do they also discuss the color of zero or how wide is up?
    Black and pretty damn wide!

  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:56PM (#19884105)
    Cancer is immortal because the tumor cells have lost their chromosomal integrity; some of them are missing parts of chromosome arms that have the genes for triggering apoptosis. Part of an arm of chromosome 3 in particular seems to confer certain superpowers of cancer on cells that lose it; without it the cells can't recognize intercellular signals, but in general these genes do not aid cancer cells in their competition with one another. So as the population starts to evolve as a gene pool of individuals with distinct genotypes (variations on your original) that compete with each other to dominate the tumor, the cells that survive are the ones that lose the ability to control themselves for the greater good of the entire population (i.e. you).

    If taken care of, cancer cell populations can easily be kept alive for decades. HeLa cells [jhu.edu] were first cultured from a cervical tumor in a patient named Henrietta Lacks. There must be tons of HeLa cells in labs all over the world; all together they probably weigh hundreds of times as much as Henrietta ever did.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @12:02AM (#19884143) Homepage Journal

    It is a *profoundly* mysterious question if it would, in fact, be the same "you" inside if your brain were switched off for a while and then turned back on.
    In the East, they have been dealing with this question for thousands of years. A Hindu might answer, yes, of course you would be the same person. This 'switching off' happens every night when you are in deep, dreamless sleep. Yet you still wake up and are the same person the next morning. This is one of the basis for their argument for cosmic consciousness, or the 'godhead' or super-soul.

    If you don't buy that this happens at night, you can make a good argument that this certainly does happen during a coma, when there is little to no electrical activity in the brain. Alternatively, you can anesthetize certain parts of the brain, and also cause the personality to disappear.

    It's one of those questions that seem unanswerable. Personally I feel it has something to do with the continuity of brain activity. You interrupt that, and whatever that "spark" is ceases to be, and if the brain is turned back on, it would be a different "you".
    The eastern philosophies argue that all phenomena, from electrical activity in the brain, to the existence of rocks, are chaotic, always in flux. In other words, you are a different 'you' for every moment of your existence. It's like saying, "I was once an 8-year-old boy, but now I'm a thirty-year-old man." Well, wait a minute -- isn't there only one you? How can you be both an boy and a man? The answer is that 'you' are a continuation of a series, a phenomenon, like the flame of a candle, or a river. The flame is never the same flame from one moment to the next, nor does a river ever have the same water or same banks, at any moment. Yet will still perceive it as the continuity of the same 'thing'.

    The idea of the 'you' as a fixed, permanent thing, seems to be an idea that traces back to Greek philosophy. They were always looking for unchanging, eternal, fixed, stable 'things'. And it really breaks down when we try to apply that to the self or consciousness. Eastern philosophy seems more advanced in this respect -- it says there are no things, only processes or phenomena that are *always* changing.
  • by kwikrick (755625) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @07:27AM (#19885865) Homepage Journal
    Another nice analogue: your body is not the same body it was 15 years ago. You think of it as the same body, only grown a bit (in length or width, depending on your age). But in fact all of the atoms that made up your body 20 years ago have all been replaced by other atoms. Our body is not really a static object, it's more like a very slow wave.

    (I read it like this in Richared Dawkin's The God Desulion, but he got it somewhere else again, can't remember where)

    The mind, conscience, personality, is perhaps a similar phenomenon. It's not a thing that can be pointed out somewhere in our brain, but it's a recurring pattern of thoughts and actions, emerging from the mechanics of our brain and the experiences therein.

"Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world." - The Beach Boys

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