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After death which of our body's metabolic processes will continue functioning for the longest?

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Slightly related to this question –  Rory M Mar 16 '13 at 17:36
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I will wait for a better answer because I'm curious too. But here is my answer, you may be surprised because I think the last metabolic process to cease after death is not fancy at all, it can simply be cellular respiration. When oxygen is depleted, cellular respiration stop and it can't do any thing. Just like sleeping, your body is basically stop doing a lot of things except cellular respiration. Here is some info you may be interested. scientificamerican.com/… –  ohcanada Mar 18 '13 at 0:46

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My first guess would be the metabolic process are going on as long as there is free ATP in the cell. After this, your muscles will become stiff. But, since dead bodies which are exhumed usually show longer hair and longer fingernails than before the funeral, I bet the growth of this is one of the last processes which can take place in human bodies.

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Do you have any references to back up your answer? Also, I thought the longer hair and fingernails things was a myth, and was to do with the cuticles and I guess scalp shrinking away and contracting when you die so it just gives the illusion of longer hair/nails? –  relf20 Apr 3 '13 at 9:27

My answer isn't researched; it is speculative.

I interpret metabolic processes as anabolic or catabolic processes. I assert that only anaerobic processes can continue for a long time after vegetative death (the epithelia could house a counter-example of a post-mortem process, but I can't think of one), and I speculate that only catabolic processes are likely to have sufficient pools of reactants to continue after death. So we're looking for a catabolic process with a large reactant pool. Therefore I think that the action of digestive proteases will continue for the longest time, because these enzymes are very stable and could have a lot of substrate around (including, at a very slow rate, cleaving each other.) The neutralization of stomach pH would inactivate this process...I don't know how long that takes.

If something like blood clotting is considered a metabolic process, then probably that continues the longest. The binding of CO2 by hemaglobin is probably faster than blood clotting. Again, I don't really consider those processes to be metabolic.

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I can imagine your digestive proteases cleaving their way through the stomach lining ever so slowly after your death, before eventually the pH is neutralized. Not what I would have thought of. Good answer. –  Jeremy Kemball Aug 25 '13 at 8:11

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