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If a scientist is observing a single cell under a microscope, and then realizes that the cell has died, is it possible to bring that dead cell back to life?

For my inquiry, let's assume that the death of the cell has occurred without disease or external circumstances.

Has such process ever taken place in a lab before? Thx.

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    $\begingroup$ this is very speculative and vague - I tried making some changes to improve it....but still vague. $\endgroup$ – Vance L Albaugh Feb 7 '16 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Vance L Albaugh, thanks for your help, the question is simply about whether a dead cell could be brought back to life or not. Not sure what is vague about this. Please explain the vague point(s) so that I could attempt to clarify. Thx. $\endgroup$ – NoChance Feb 7 '16 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ How is cell death defined? $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 7 '16 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b, Excellent question. I am not a Biologist by any measure, so I really not sure of the accurate scientific term. However, I would assume that one aspect of cell death would include recognizing that the cell has stopped performing the chemical reactions that a living cell normally performs. However, I am trying to understand, so I may be wrong. $\endgroup$ – NoChance Feb 7 '16 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ Well once we know the reason due to the death, then I fell we can provide a better answer. Because i dont know how a cell can just die like that. There must be a reason $\endgroup$ – Tusky Feb 7 '16 at 12:23
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There are species where cells and even whole organisms can go into a state called cryptobiosis where their metabolism is suspended but can be revived later. This usually happens when the conditions become too bad for survival (dry/cold etc.) and is reversed once the conditions improve again (rehydration warming up). One prominent and fascinating example are tardigrades.

Also, it is possible to freeze cells in liquid nitrogen where all metabolic processes are extremely slow. With modern freezing/thawing processes cell survival rates >90% are possible. However, before you ask this will not work on whole tissues let alone people!

Cryptobiosis only works for specialized species and only under certain conditions. Normally, once a cell starts to die, it either does so because it is too damaged to keep living, a process called necrosis or because apoptosis (programmed cell death) was triggered upon which its DNA is fragmented and the proteins are degraded by proteases. Neither process is reversible once started.

Note: I find your restriction "the death of the cell has occurred without disease or external circumstances" a bit puzzling and too vague. Unless something happens to them cells don't just die. Therefore I explicitly ignored this restriction until you formulate it more specifically so that it makes sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thx. for the detailed answer. I assumed that sudden cell death is frequent and normal, yet In this question, I got about 3 people questioning this point which hints to me that sudden death is 'not normal'! I need to do some reading to understand the 'basics of cell death reasons'! $\endgroup$ – NoChance Feb 7 '16 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ @NoChance If you feel that my answer was correct, please accept it (click on the hollow check mark you see below the voting buttons). Thanks :) $\endgroup$ – Thawn Feb 10 '16 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ I expected more answers to come for such an interesting question, but you were the only one! Thx. $\endgroup$ – NoChance Feb 10 '16 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @NoChance Thx :) $\endgroup$ – Thawn Feb 10 '16 at 21:30

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