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While human body as a whole will find a increase in temperature by 2 C fatal, what about individual cells? If temperature of a cell or tissue is maintained at higher temperature via external mechanism , say a sophisticated heating rod, how much temperature rise it can take before dieing? Say, endothelial cells lining blood vessels. Or,any other cell.

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closed as unclear what you're asking by AMR, David, AliceD May 22 '17 at 12:20

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  • $\begingroup$ different cells and tissues have different tolerances, so you will have to be more specific. $\endgroup$ – John May 21 '17 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ A core body temperature of 39°C is far from fatal, so you are starting from an incorrect assumption. $\endgroup$ – AMR May 21 '17 at 4:52
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Talking about cells in general, the main problem about higher temperatures is the denaturation of proteins (when proteins lose their structure and then they don't work anymore), and every organism has a specific range of temperatures in which its proteins have evolved to work in that determined range.

The most common example of bacteria living at high temperatures is Thermus aquaticus (or others) which proteins are widely used in laboratories for their peculiarity to be able to work at more than 70 °C (e.g. polymerase chain reaction).

In humans the mean temperature is 37 °C, and it's not unusual during severe fevers to get it rising to 39-40 °C (so the assumption that over 39 °C occurs death is incorrect). Of course you can reach higher temperatures but reaching 43-44 °C leads to multi-organ damages. You can find out more in this review.

Another thing to take in consideration is that cells must contain water in liquid phase, so over the 100 °C limit (at atmospheric pressure, so the limit can increase alongside pressure) it's kind of impossible to find living cells.

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  • $\begingroup$ The highest I found is 122 °C (pnas.org/content/105/31/10949) but you have to consider the high pressure that keeps water a liquid and not a gas. $\endgroup$ – DavideN May 21 '17 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ I think the question was about the temperature tolerance of human cells, not extreme thermophile bacteria, so this seems to be veering off topic ... $\endgroup$ – Roland May 21 '17 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ Reading the question and the comment wrote by John I thought it was clearer to take them as example, anyway the thermophile-related sentences can be easily deleted. $\endgroup$ – DavideN May 21 '17 at 7:28

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