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

  • $\begingroup$ Slightly related to this question $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 17:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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/… $\endgroup$
    – ohcanada
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 0:46

1 Answer 1


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.

  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$
    – Resonating
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 8:11

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