I'm researching on the topic that if bacteria have souls then animal cells and plant cells also do for an article.

1) Is there a way to make any of the body cells survive outside the body for a reasonably long time?

2) What is the longest time that human cells have survived outside the body?

3) Can we consider each human body cell as a living thing, the same or more complex than a bacteria? Why? Why not?

4) If a cell is unable to survive outside the body, is it considered to be not a living thing in biology?

5) What are the properties of a living thing definition that animal body cells do not meet?

6) What is the stance of biologists on animal cells being living things?

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    $\begingroup$ Whoa whoa whoa. Too many questions. Choose one or two of them, not more. You can ask the other ones in another question. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ Partly duplicate of: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/7053/…. Disregarding all talk about "souls", the question revolves around the definition of life. $\endgroup$
    – vkehayas
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ depends which ones, and the temperature, and protection, and robust attributes. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ I am voting to close as too broad because the post contains way too many questions! $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ The concept of soul is undefined in science. Please use terms that are clearly defined or define them in your post. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 19:58

3 Answers 3


As @LinuxBlanket stated, that's too many questions. But I thought this interesting so wanted to answer anyway.

I'm researching on the topic that if bacteria have souls then animal cells and plant cells also do for an article.

Since there's no evidence of "souls" anywhere, the topic is moot. I encourage you to read this.

Concerning your main question

Can animlal body cells survive outside the body? For how long

That has nothing to do with a soul - if souls did exist, then they'd only really matter when the organism dies. So how long something lives has nothing to do with your topic.

You should also think about what "alive" means, as there isn't a solid definition in Biology. usually the definition is around replication and/or metabolism, but then would you say a virus is alive? If yes, what about prions? If you cut a tree to the stump, when exactly does it "die"? Where do you draw the line?

OK, to answer your questions.

  1. Yes. Think of a cell as an enclosed unit that metabolises and respirates. As long as the cell gets what it needs to continue those two processes, whether within the tissue or in a synthetic setting, it'll "survive". See this.

  2. So as I explained, you can keep a cell ticking along as long as you can keep those basic processes going. At some point, a cell will want to replicate. So now you have to think - is my 1 surviving cell becomes 2, then 4, etc., then cell number 1 dies, am I still classing it as survival? If you want to keep cell number 1 alive indefinitely, you can adjust its environmental conditions to slow the pace of its life - cool the cell down, chemical reactions for metabolism and respiration slow down and the individual cell will "live longer". You can even freeze a cell for years then thaw it, and it will continue to live. See this.

  3. That's for you to figure out. I encourage you to look up the definitions of cells, tissues, organs and organisms.

  4. If a cell dies, it's considered dead. Even in biology.

  5. Again, the definitions of "living" aren't set in stone. Personally, I reduce a living thing into these two requirements:

    • Something that replicates
    • Something that metabolises

But, I would say that animal cells meet the requirements of the general consensus more than viruses and prions (they replicate), but less than plant cells. This might be a good start to exploring why. But in short, animal cells tend to work together as tissues. Plant cells are a little more viable on their own. You can take a plant cell and grow an entire plant from it. You can only do the same with an animal if you use stem cells.

  1. You should be able to answer that question yourself now =)
  • $\begingroup$ "this is called 'death,' namely a release and separation of the soul from the body." --Iamblichus | @Ronald Greeff -- soul is immaterial: no physical instrument can detect and measure soul. If you deny the existence of soul, you are against Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Porhyry, Iamblichus . . . $\endgroup$
    – user37894
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinKlvana "that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence". If no physical instrument can detect and measure soul, how did lamblichus could conclude that the soul existed in the first place? Just because I disagree with the Greeks, doesn't make me "against them". Pythagoras' theorum's grounded in maths, so it's difficult for it to be contrived. But they didn't have the scientific instruments of today, nor the discoveries of Newton, Einstein, etc., to test their assumptions and correct their errors. $\endgroup$
    – ron_g
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @RonaldGreeff The 4 point is about if the cell doesn't have the ability to survive independently can it be considered alive according to biology. Not if it is dead, is it dead. $\endgroup$
    – Wally
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 5:35

1) Is there a way to make any of the body cells survive out side the body for a reasonably long time?

HeLa cells have been living outside of their owner's body since 1951. Admittedly, cancer cells are trying hard not to die in the first place...


Cell lines are cancer cells or virally or chemically transformed cells that can continue to replicate indefinitely, as long as they get fresh media. Primary cells are native cells that are grown in culture, but they eventually die off. Some primary cells are short lived, both in vitro and in vivo, like neutrophils. Other primary cells can grow, differentiate, and replicate for weeks, particularly if growth factors are supplied.

  • $\begingroup$ I think it is unlikely that cells have souls, especially not culturable cells. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 3:56

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