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Mitochondria and the Prevention of Death

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the wrestling-the-dead-back-to-life dept.

Biotech 453

H_Fisher writes "Research into mitochondria — small structures within a cell that have their own DNA — suggests that they may be a cause of cellular death, according to Newsweek. The article The Science of Death: Reviving the Dead reports on people who have recovered from sudden death due to cardiac arrest through the use of medically induced hypothermia. The cooling process may help stop the death of brain and heart cells initiated by the mitochondria once they are deprived of oxygen. The article goes on to probe delicately at the question of where a person's personality 'is' between death and later revival, and describes several ongoing scientific studies of near-death experiences."

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It's not exactly mysterious. (5, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883567)

A person's personality goes off to Digg when they are Mostly Dead.

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (2, Funny)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883593)

Netcraft confirms it.

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (-1, Offtopic)

alfs boner (963844) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884007)

Fuck off you redneck piece of shit. Murdering animals for sport is reprehensible. I don't want to see your bullshit on slashdot anymore.

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884151)

Honey, animals don't feel death. That was proven by the scientists at Black Angus.

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884187)

Fuck off you redneck piece of shit. Murdering animals for sport is reprehensible. I don't want to see your bullshit on slashdot anymore.

Ah. Do you trot out the same eloquent sensibilities for people who buy a new pair of leather shoes at some point before their last pair wears out? Oh, that's fashion - that's different, I guess. And what sport is it, exactly, that you think I'm practicing? Personally, I eat the birds and other animals that I personally go out looking for and bring home to the kitchen. And for each one I cook, that's one chemical-filled, agro-biz-raised taste-free farm animal I'm NOT eating. Do you eat the worms that are sliced in half while the soy plants for your tofurkey are being cultivated? Do you stand underneath the spinning blades of a nice, Green-friendly power generating windmill and eat the birds and bats that are beaten to death and fall to the ground so that some electrons can make your Wii glow and amuse you? What? I'm being presumptuous about your habits? Huh. It's almost like I don't know you, or something. Sort of like you're spouting a bunch of condescending crap that serves only to illustrate your own ignorance, bigotry, and malice. Which is fine, and you won't see me scolding you about where you can do it. Not to be confused with your take on things. I'm so glad that you're here to serve as thought police and to be the mind-reading arbitor of activities about which you - clearly - know nothing, but about which you none the less have formed a complex, nuanced, fully contemplated opinion. I mean, how else could you arrive at such a compelling, informed, and audience-changing bit of rhetoric? It's freakin' GENIUS, man. Wow. You've worn me out, and now I need to eat some protein. What do you recommend? Chicken? No thanks. Wild pheasant is far, far healthier.

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (5, Funny)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884279)

Mod parent: +5 Hippy Ownage

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884521)

personally my game hunting weapon of choice is a stick of dynamite. i sneak up on my prey and insert it quickly and silently into it's anus then light it.

the skill is in lighting it without them knowing.

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (2, Insightful)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884533)

For all this stuff about creatures being hurt for non-meat purposes to be a good way of criticising vegetarians, you'd have to argue several other points first:

If you want to talk about electricity production, you'll have to prove that vegetarians use significantly more electricity than omnivores. You are unlikely to be able to do this.

If you want to talk about grain production, you'll have to prove that the extra grain which is directly consumed by a vegetarian significantly outweighs the large amounts of grain fed to livestock, and all other damage done to tiny animals by the livestock industry. This will be very tricky.

If you manage to prove the last point, you'll also have to make a good argument for (a) the accidental harm done to worms and suchlike outweighing (b) a lifetime of captivity followed by bloody slaughter inflicted on higher creatures. Since it is likely that both you and the other person both agree that priority ought to be given to higher creatures (humans before chimps, chimps before hamsters, hamsters before bacteria...), it would probably be pointless to try to make the argument.

Of course, you are unlikely to be interested in any of this. Stuff like "being presumptuous about your habits" leads me to believe that you are making these arguments about worms and bats totally disingenuously. You are not looking for the least harmful way of living, but simply throwing a tantrum because someone has said something that challenges your way of living.

Naw. It crashes. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884049)

And then when you're resuscitated or reanimated it gets restored from the last save. B-)

Re:It's not exactly mysterious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884101)

"Inside the cells, the culprit seems to be in the mitochondria, which is the cell's power plant where sugar and oxygen are converted to usable energy. Mitochondria are also responsible for apoptosis-the organized, controlled self-destruction of a cell. Normally apoptosis occurs in situations such as the cell being damaged beyond repair, infected by a virus, an attempt to prevent cancer, or aiding in initial tissue development. The process effectively kills and dismantles the cell allowing the body's usual waste management functions to carry the cell's remains away. For reasons not entirely clear, reperfusion triggers apoptosis-the oxygen intended to save the cell actually causes cellular suicide."

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=860#more-860 [damninteresting.com]

Space Travel (3, Interesting)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883575)

While I dont see this as a fountain of youth. This research could be very useful for long distant space travel. Especially as we are pondering going to Mars. I wonder how well this could be coupled with cryogenics.

Re:Space Travel (1)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883597)

Mars is 6 months away. It is NOT that far. People spend more time on ISS (International Space Station).

Re:Space Travel (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883817)

I think I'd rather build a good sized O'Neil Colony, put 10,000 people in it and take a few years to reach Mars. At least then you'd have something to do when you get there (colonize). Although, I don't know if there'd be much point.. Space colonies are a much nicer place to live than a dusty dead gravity hole.

Re:Space Travel (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883967)

What's wrong with a little gravity? You'd probably end up spending a lot of resources trying to recreate it on a long term space colony, might as well take advantage of the natural gravity of Mars. But I guess the advantage of a space station/colony gravity is that it is "optional." Mmmm, weightless sex. Sounds fun.

-matthew

Re:Space Travel (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883999)

Yeah, spinning a habitat is pretty cheap. Especially when you habitat is not in interstellar space.. the Sun provides more energy than you can use. It's so damn easy and so much better to live in space that it is a travesty that it has been over 30 years since O'Neil worked it all out for us and we're still sitting here on this rock. We're still suffering poor crops and unpredictable weather. We're still burning fossil fuels and making radioactive wastes. We're still struggling with flus and parasites and living under the threat of imminent death of the species by planet killing meteors.

Re:Space Travel (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884305)

...we're still sitting here on this rock.

We already live in space. This rock happens to be our spaceship. And I find it pretty comfy.

We're still suffering poor crops and unpredictable weather...

That's politics for ya.

Re:Space Travel (2, Interesting)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884325)

Ok I know this is slashdot and so my audience is fairly limited, but:

Have you ever been going at it so hard you fell off? Can you see yourself thrusting away and then losing grip on your partners sweat soaked body. Can you imagine the frustration of seeing her slowly drift away just out of reach?

Down on earth we have gravity. In space the only thing that will halt your flying man-juice is some undoubtably important computer a hundred meters away on the other side of the station.

Can you imagine floating gracefully in the middle of the room, hearing your roommate at the door, and the futile (yet hilarious) running in air as you try to retrieve your pants?

Earth: Wet spot on covers.
Space: Volume of small droplets.

I think I've said enough. Keep your pants on Armstrong ;)

Thanks, but... (5, Insightful)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883589)

I don't want to troll, but I prefer not to get my science from MSNBC and other mainstream media sources.

Just to deconfuse things (5, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883785)

Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is normally considered a good thing. Cell death is the front line against Viruses, toxins, and other pathogens. When a cell is hopelessly invaded it will immediately try to kill itself or be told to kill itself by it's neighbors? Why? Well first single cells by themselves don't have much defense against stuff so when the jig is up there's no point in trying to live on. An inveded cell is a danger to it's neighbors since the virus will use it's machinery to replicate. Thus it's a mutually assured destruction strategy. And the first thing most bugs do on entering a host is attack the signals for apoptosis. Indeed Cancer is dangerous because it's immortal.

Thus it's interesting to find a way to override perhaps the most important response shared by cells in the body.

Re:Just to deconfuse things (5, Informative)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884105)

Cancer is immortal because the tumor cells have lost their chromosomal integrity; some of them are missing parts of chromosome arms that have the genes for triggering apoptosis. Part of an arm of chromosome 3 in particular seems to confer certain superpowers of cancer on cells that lose it; without it the cells can't recognize intercellular signals, but in general these genes do not aid cancer cells in their competition with one another. So as the population starts to evolve as a gene pool of individuals with distinct genotypes (variations on your original) that compete with each other to dominate the tumor, the cells that survive are the ones that lose the ability to control themselves for the greater good of the entire population (i.e. you).

If taken care of, cancer cell populations can easily be kept alive for decades. HeLa cells [jhu.edu] were first cultured from a cervical tumor in a patient named Henrietta Lacks. There must be tons of HeLa cells in labs all over the world; all together they probably weigh hundreds of times as much as Henrietta ever did.

Re:Thanks, but... (2, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883807)

I prefer not to get my science from MSNBC and other mainstream media sources.

Yeah. The info about cryogenic treatment for resuscitation was fine, but conflating that with cryonics was off-base, and bringing in near-death experiences was just dumb. There's nothing supernatural about such experiences, take the right drugs and you can have them yourself [near-death.com] .

Obliq quote (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883601)

Palpatine: Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?
Anakin Skywalker: No.
Palpatine: I thought not. It's not a story the Jedi would tell you. It's a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life... He had such a knowledge of the dark side he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.
Anakin Skywalker: He could actually save people from death?
Palpatine: The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be... unnatural.
Anakin Skywalker: What happened to him?
Palpatine: He became so powerful the only thing he was afraid of was...losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. It's ironic; he could save others from death, but not himself.
Anakin Skywalker: Is it possible to learn this power?
Palpatine: Not from a Jedi.

Re:Obliq quote (1)

Gunslinger47 (654093) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883781)

mitochondria =/= midi-chlorians

Re:Obliq quote (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884493)

You can't win. If you mod me down, I shall be meta-modded higher than you can possibly imagine.

Brilliant (2, Interesting)

joe_bruin (266648) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883605)

So what they're saying is that the Mitochondria, the organelles that use oxygen to generate ATP (the primary source of chemical energy in your body), cause death when they no longer get oxygen? I hope the Nobel prize committee is listening.

Re:Brilliant (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883677)

http://www.cell.com/content/article/fulltext?uid=P IIS0092867404000315 [cell.com]

Haven't we known about caspase cascades and mitochondria for several years... I'm pretty sure I learned about them in AP Biology five years ago.

Re:Brilliant (4, Informative)

RatPh!nk (216977) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883799)

You are totally correct, we have known about them forever. There are however, apoptotic pathways that do not directly involve mitochondria in the same central way cytochrome C/cardiolipin/caspase cascades do. So again, "death" is much, much more complicated. Cheers

Re:Brilliant (0, Offtopic)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884141)

Ah, the midochlorians are strong in this one.

Ob. follow up (0, Offtopic)

kypper (446750) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884169)

I felt a great disturbance in the ATP production, as if millions of mitochondria suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

CRYONICS (3, Insightful)

cryophan (787735) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883609)

Most importanly, as this article alludes to, this new approach valdiates some of the science surrounding cryonics. As far as I can tell, cryonics is the only possible way for any of us to get our selves and our memories to the distant future where we can live superlong lives, or maybe even forever.

Re:CRYONICS (2, Insightful)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883989)

Or you could just get to the future only to find that you have to be genetically engineered from birth to live that superlong life and end up looking like as fool as you age, all alone with no friends or family, while everyone else is holding at 19 and partying all the time. But I guess I'm a pessimist sometimes. :-)

-matthew

 

Ob. Princess Bride (5, Funny)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883615)

Miracle Max: See, there's a big difference between mostly dead, and all dead. Now, mostly dead: he's slightly alive. All dead, well, with all dead, there's usually only one thing that you can do.
Inigo: What's that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

Re:Ob. Princess Bride (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883757)

+1 Funny

Re:Ob. Princess Bride (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884511)

Inconceivable.

easy question (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883625)

'to probe delicately at the question of where a person's personality 'is' between death and later revival'

The same place your computer's conciousness goes when you turn it off.

Re:easy question (1)

mrcdeckard (810717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883709)

or where any "personality" goes when it's sleeping.

mr c

Read title wrong (1)

lukesky321 (1092369) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883639)

Maybe im a Nerd but I read this as Midichlorians and the Prevention of Death.

Re:Read title wrong (1)

ThatGamerChick (1128457) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883753)

Is that the stuff the Force is supposed to be made out of? If so, I totally did the same thing.

Re:Read title wrong (1)

jbrader (697703) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883865)

No. If you were a nerd you would have been literate enough to read it correctly the first time.

A Wind in the Door (1)

AslanTheMentat (896280) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883645)

I've known about this since elementary school!

A Wind in the Door (Madeleine L'Engle) [wikipedia.org]

Re:A Wind in the Door (1)

Eco-Mono (978899) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883689)

Do you know what this means?! *goes to program a cube-based time machine in LISP*

Re:A Wind in the Door (1)

AslanTheMentat (896280) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883775)

I tried to write a cube-based time machine in LISP, but all I could get was a bug-ridden half-implementation of a hyper-cube-based time machine hacked together in Python... :)

From the article (2, Funny)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883669)

On Napoleon's Russian campaign, his surgeon general noticed that wounded infantrymen, left on the snowy ground to recover, had better survival rates than officers who stayed warm near the campfire.
On Napolean's Russian campaign, wounded, left on the snowy ground......I think I'd rather die.

--
Looking to trade in for a newer girlfriend? Now there's a place!! [usedgirlfriend.com]

Been there, done that. (5, Interesting)

RiffRafff (234408) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883727)

I was diagnosed with "sick sinus syndrome." Well, not until I had basically died a few times. The electrical impulses that cause the heart to fire, ceased. I flat-lined, and was essentially "dead." The first few times (twice at home, 2 or 3 times at the hospital) I came back on my own. There was no "where am I?" questions upon regaining consciousness; I knew where I was, and I knew _something_ had happened, but I didn't know what. It wasn't until the last "episode," after they had attached a heart monitor with the little sticky-pads that the doctors actually knew, for sure, that I was flat-lining. They immediately ran a catheter up my groin, into my heart, and attached to an external pace-maker. A day later they implanted a pace-maker. Now, almost three years later, the pace-maker's computer says it has never "paced." In other words, I haven't really needed it. :-/

My point is this: when I was "dead," I never "left my body," I never saw myself and the doctors in the hospital from "above," I never experienced anything. It was like a light-switch was simply flipped. I was just gone. No angels, no bright light, nothing. So. My advice, for what it's worth, is that you should do whatever you need to do. Whatever you need to accomplish. If my experience is any indication, there is no second chance. Do it now. Don't expect anything else after you're gone. When you're gone, you're gone. There appears to be nothing else. And while that may not be what you wanted to hear, that was my reality.

Don't live your life in fear of death, but don't take anything for granted, either. As Warren Zevon said, "enjoy every sandwich."

(Of course, Zevon also said, "I think I made a tactical error by not going to the doctor earlier." So don't do that.)

Re:Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883795)

I'm confused. Are you saying that I shouldn't sit here on the couch stuffing my face with donuts whilst watching E?

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883805)

Maybe because all you had was a brief blackout caused by lack of oxygen to the brain.

The drama doesn't start until the brain starts dying.

Re:Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883821)

why does death have to be the same for everyone?

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883877)

why does death have to be the same for everyone?
Cause you are not special!

Re:Been there, done that. (4, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883837)

I never saw myself and the doctors in the hospital from above...

Well, I did. 11 years old, skull fracture from little league game (I was pitching, before the hard hat rule (which I was told I instigated)). No pre-knowledge or exposure to such states, or even the concept of mortality -- never a church goer. Genuine OOB perception, howling winds, players gathered around my supine body, sound of my dad calling me back (he was the team's manager). Followed by aphasia, surgery, long recovery.

Nothing has ever been really spookey since. Meh, it's life. Do the next thing.

Re:Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884419)

Are you sure that was the "dying" or perhaps just side effects of massive head injuries?

Re:Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884529)

Sounds like the old brain wasn't working real good at the time.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883857)

Heck, that's quite something. I instinctively winced with the sequence about the catheter from the groin to the heart...

If I may - there's insufficient data to rule out life after death based on that. You weren't dead. I mean, you're here now. Dead (to most of us) means gone, kaput, nada, the big zero. No coming back . You weren't not coming back, because you came back.

Now I'm not a born-again sort-of-dude (heck, by no means) but it does seem extremely wasteful of mother nature to just toss away the contents when the container wears out. No doubt there's other more suitable metaphors but that's one I picked on.

Maybe cliniically dead =/ dead? Is there a metaphysicist in the house?

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884237)

Now I'm not a born-again sort-of-dude (heck, by no means) but it does seem extremely wasteful of mother nature to just toss away the contents when the container wears out. No doubt there's other more suitable metaphors but that's one I picked on.

If by "contents" you mean things like consciousness and identity, I see no evidence that Mother Nature gives a damn about them. Consciousness is just a useful tool for allowing our genes to produce copies of themselves -- a goal which the genes themselves, of course, are not conscious of.

Maybe cliniically dead =/ dead? Is there a metaphysicist in the house?

No help here, I'm afraid. I'm a fairly strict naturalist. Although there is a valid medical distinction between different kinds of "deaths" and one type of death may have different, true metaphysical consequences than another type of death ... there is no good empirical evidence that I'm aware of that suggests that hypothesis has any merit.

Anybody can look at what we know and define an invisible system of metaphysics beyond the limits of our knowledge. Without evidence or something like a scientific methodology for testing our speculations, however, I don't really see where any of that gets us, or why we should credit any book, legend, priest, psychic medium or anything/anybody else as a credible authority on these matters. We're all equally ignorant on this subject ... some just think (or pretend) otherwise.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884289)

Dead (to most of us) means gone, kaput, nada, the big zero. No coming back . You weren't not coming back, because you came back.

Well, fine, but that rules out the whole notion of NDEs as "evidence" or some sort of afterlife. Which is ok, since NDEs aren't evidence of anything except that a dying brain is rather like a brain dosed with ketamine; but since notions of the afterlife are basically based on NDEs plus wishful thinking, you're left with just wishful thinking. Such as:

it does seem extremely wasteful of mother nature to just toss away the contents when the container wears out.

But Mother Nature is extremely wasteful, all the time - how many sperm get wasted to fertilize one zygote?

Anyway, there's no "container" or "contents" here; the self is what the body does, not something the body somehow "contains".

Maybe cliniically dead =/ dead?

Well, that's well-established. There's clinically dead, brain dead, legally dead. What's more interesting is that brain death (an EEG flatline) seems to be a reversible condition. (Though how much brain damage and personality change can be suffered before we say that while a body may be moving around and talking, that the person who was previously associated with it has died?)

Re:Been there, done that. (0, Flamebait)

OmegaBlac (752432) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883903)

My point is this: when I was "dead," I never "left my body," I never saw myself and the doctors in the hospital from "above," I never experienced anything. It was like a light-switch was simply flipped. I was just gone. No angels, no bright light, nothing.
So there really are no 72 virgins awaiting Allah's faithful flock? Man death is going to be boring.

Re:Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883945)

Being alive is just an illusion caused by random electric impulses in the brain which give rise to the senses. Thinking and moving are just functions of the brain that you can use as long as the part of the brain that does that function is not damaged. It might be possible to make someone come back to life from scratch in the future but the electric signals wont match perfectly so it won't be you again. This is the cloning paradox where a perfect clone is still different from its original because it did not experience the same experiences. My advice is don't die, you'll never be yourself again.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884021)

Thank you, Guy Who's Been To One Or Two Philosophy Classes In His Life.

Re:Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884107)

np -GWBTOOTPCIHL

(Spoiler: I didn't take any philosophy classes, I'm just intuitively gifted)

Re:Been there, done that. (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884015)

It sounds like you weren't dead in any medical or scientific sense, just that your heart had stopped. There's been debate, probably since the dawn of humanity, as to when you can say someone is actually dead. There's always been problems of 'dead' people waking up, unless you actually practice cremation or draining the blood -- that's why we do it. There was a contest of sorts to make a medical definition of death back in the 1700s or 1800s -- the actual point where you could never come back. The guy who won proposed that putrefaction (when the body is actually rotting) was the only scientifically valid definition. I think the current medical definition is no heartbeat and no electrical activity in the brain.

Anyway, I'll hijack this thread to talk about my own information about where the 'personality' is during a clinical death experience. I don't think it 'is' anywhere. It's like asking where windows is when your computer is off. Going through a coma or medical death is like rebooting the part of your brain that generates your personality. If you read about Hindu and Buddhist meditation, and also the experience of serious hallucinogen users, they talk about an experience called 'ego death'. It's where you still perceive everything you normally would, except there is no "I". The subjective perspective completely evaporates. You see yourself as objectively as you would the person sitting next to you, not attached to your desires or fears. Even though you can still perceive your own thoughts and internal body states, you still don't have the sensation of an "I" or a soul who is experiencing it. Your sense of ownership, or things belonging to 'you', including your own body and thoughts, just is gone. It's called the 'unseen seer' in Hinduism, or the invisible eyeball by the transcendentalist Americans of the 1800s.

There is a part of our brain that generates this sense of self, the "I", and it can get shut down just like any other part of the brain, through bodily trauma, meditation, or drugs.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884071)

It sounds like you weren't dead in any medical or scientific sense, just that your heart had stopped.

      If the heart stops, it means you're dead. In both a medical and scientific sense. I should know. I'm a doctor.

      Now there's a question of REVERSIBLE death, and IRREVERSIBLE death. You're only LEGALLY dead when you are irreversibly dead. However if your patient has no pulse and no blood pressure, he's dead. So move your ass if you don't want him to STAY dead.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884211)

If the heart stops, it means you're dead. In both a medical and scientific sense. I should know. I'm a doctor.
I don't see why we would base our definition of death based on the activity of the heart. It would be like saying someone is dead because they aren't breathing, or their kidneys aren't functioning. Yes, they will die in moments if their heart stops or they stop breathing, somewhat longer if their kidneys stop, but they aren't dead yet if you can intervene and get them going again. It seems to go back to the western idea that blood was the vital essence of life ( or breath, in the case of not breathing means dead -- remember human beings first came alive when God breathed the 'Breath of Life' into them -- this was taken as serious scientific stuff up until about 200 years ago. ) , and that the heart was the center of the being.

Anyways, about the medical definition of death, Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] says differently:

Historically, attempts to define the exact moment of death have been problematic. Death was once defined as the cessation of heartbeat (cardiac arrest) and of breathing, but the development of CPR and prompt defibrillation have rendered the previous definition inadequate because breathing and heartbeat can sometimes be restarted. This is now called "clinical death". Events which were causally linked to death in the past no longer kill in all circumstances; without a functioning heart or lungs, life can sometimes be sustained with a combination of life support devices, organ transplants and artificial pacemakers.

Today, where a definition of the moment of death is required, doctors and coroners usually turn to "brain death" or "biological death": People are considered dead when the electrical activity in their brain ceases (cf. persistent vegetative state). It is presumed that a stoppage of electrical activity indicates the end of consciousness. However, suspension of consciousness must be permanent, and not transient, as occurs during sleep, and especially a coma. In the case of sleep, EEGs can easily tell the difference. Identifying the moment of death is important in cases of transplantation, as organs for transplant must be harvested as quickly as possible after the death of the body.
Emphasis mine.

Now there's a question of REVERSIBLE death, and IRREVERSIBLE death.
My definition of death would have to mean that you're not coming back, no matter what. Otherwise, that's not really death, is it? Reversible death sounds like a paradox to me. If death mean no heart-beat, it seems to me that we need to update that definition, because these days we can bring back dead people rather easily.

Re:Been there, done that. (0, Flamebait)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884109)

Oh, and another thing I forgot - you are foolish enough to make up your own definition of death in order to justify your own "information", while completely ignoring testimony of two people who have ACTUALLY been clinically dead?

Why the FUCK should we believe you? How many times have YOU died to get this "information"? You're just another attention whore with a "pet theory".

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884247)

My definition of death agrees with wikipedia [wikipedia.org] : "Today, where a definition of the moment of death is required, doctors and coroners usually turn to "brain death" or "biological death": People are considered dead when the electrical activity in their brain ceases (cf. persistent vegetative state). It is presumed that a stoppage of electrical activity indicates the end of consciousness. However, suspension of consciousness must be permanent, and not transient, as occurs during sleep, and especially a coma." Emphasis mine.

while completely ignoring testimony of two people who have ACTUALLY been clinically dead?
If you trust the wikipedia article, the guy whose heart stopped *wasn't* clinically dead.

But if you're going to say that consciousness determines whether or not something is 'dead', then we would have to say that bacteria and plants are not alive, because they have no nervous system, and thus no consciousness. That's why I go with putrefaction -- the cessation of metabolic activity that keeps the organism going.

However, in our society, we couldn't transplant organs if we said that death occurs at putrefaction ( different pars of your body can rot while the rest of you is still alive anyway ), so that's why we go with brain death.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

clem (5683) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884249)

Yeah! You heard the man. Go take your "ideas" someplace where they have "discussions"! Maybe some sort of "forum". Just keep it off fonts of irrefutable knowledge like Slashdot.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884335)

Fine! I'm taking my ball and going to DIGG. Do you hear me, Taco!?

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884047)

My point is this: when I was "dead," I never "left my body," I never saw myself and the doctors in the hospital from "above," I never experienced anything. It was like a light-switch was simply flipped.

      Having done a ventricular fibrillation for a couple minutes and being "clinically dead", then reanimated - I completely agree with you. All that tunnel stuff is just sensationalist bullshit, like aliens, and all the other crap the media likes to feed to gullible women.

      I "died" in mid sentence. I was reanimated and completely disoriented for a minute - feeling very peaceful and detached as everyone was working my code call, then memory came flooding back - right, I had gone to the ER with chest pain, oh shit - what just happened... etc.

      The "light switch" analogy is one I used myself. When it's off, you don't notice ANYTHING. Welcome to oblivion.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884389)

I've had a few operations which involved putting me completely under (ear op, appendectomy, nose op), and with the exception of the appendectomy, it was literally like I was turned off and then immediately turned back on (of course it was more like 10 or 50 minutes later, but I didn't notice). I was about 7 or something when I had the ear operation, and was only under for 10 minutes, and bounced back afterwards like nothing had happened. Then appendectomy was obviously a more intensive procedure, and I remember waking up and feeling really groggy, and then going to sleep.

I've always imagined that that's what death would be pretty much exactly like that, without the turning you back on bit.

All the funky things that happen as the oxygen level starts dropping and your brain starts to shut down is reasonably well understood (the process, if not the reasons for it), I don't believe that there is any magic about it.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884203)

My advice, for what it's worth, is that you should do whatever you need to do. Whatever you need to accomplish. If my experience is any indication, there is no second chance.
On the contrary, it sounds like you've gotten a few extra chances already.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884307)

My point is this: when I was "dead," I never "left my body," I never saw myself and the doctors in the hospital from "above," I never experienced anything. It was like a light-switch was simply flipped. I was just gone. No angels, no bright light, nothing.

This is just me thinking out loud but I would guess that none of that happened simply because it just wasn't your time to go. Biologically speaking there were probably still some processes going on and obviously the heart was able to be kicked back into action to join the rest of your body (including your brain) that was still kicking. I've seen some medical definitions of "death" that include both the brain and the heart which makes it difficult to say when someone can be taken off life support without fear of someone saying you killed the person because they weren't already dead. In your case, it's just about like you did lose consciousness (or like you fainted) because except for the heart stopping, you did just simply go unconscious. Until the brain stops functioning (all of it) you would still be able to know that you had memories and understand their meaning as long as you can regain consciousness (other parts of the brain that work during your consciousness would be active to process those memories). If you really had died and everything that gives you your personality and soul left your body then obviously you wouldn't be hear to tell us about it; at that point there is no turning back, not that you have a choice in the matter. You are definitely very lucky and very unique in that you can say you experienced something like.

Not having gone through it myself I can say it was probably a scary moment for you but it may also have been a comforting moment because you are one of the few who can say they have come the closest you can get to dying so you know what to expect when it really does happen. Many people fear dying because they don't know what to expect. Unfortunately we can't have people who have died tell us exactly what it was like to comfort the rest of us. I'm close to be comfortable with it but the problem I have is that I wouldn't want to leave the people I know here on Earth but I know that when I do I'll be in a better place and won't be able to wait for everyone else to join me in Heaven.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Quarters (18322) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884407)

All you can say is that you don't remember anything, not that nothing happened. It's well known that the part of the brain that processes short term memories is one of the most fragile areas, for whatever reason. Short term amnesia covering a time from slighty before (sometimes as much as a week) an accident/injury up till the point the person regains consciousness is pretty much par for the course.

I rolled a car once and ended up being rushed to a hospital. I had no serious injuries, no broken bones, no concussion, no nothing. Except for a big stripe across my chest from where the seat-belt dug in to me I was fine. I was unconscious from the time of the accident until about an hour later. I have no memory of the accident, the 30 minutes or so before the accident, or the time I was unconscious. None whatsoever. If an incident like that, which affected no major physical injury on me, can wipe out a full 90+ minutes of my memories I can only imagine something similar if not more pronounced happening to your short term memory when your heart stopped.

go4t (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883789)

pl4y area try not

It just goes to prove... (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883791)

that the female of the species is evil.

Now that we can cure death, (1)

Old Wolf (56093) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883813)

How about a Beowulf cluster of these?

Oh wait .. no science will ever be able to revive that one.

Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883819)

Mitochondria are another form of life, that just keep the cell going for their own means. No, really. Maybe.

Re:Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884385)

It is also believed that Mitochondria are not part of our body, they are aliens to our body who formed a symbiotic relationship with our cell.

As far as I remember the sequence is inherited from female and male has no play in it. It has also been used to prove existence of an ancestral Eve. In other words, we all share the same mother, if not a father!

Begins with an 'M' (1)

hedgemage (934558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883829)

The bad news is that mitochondria initiate the process of cell death.
The good news is that they give you Force powers.

spoiler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19883863)

The article goes on to probe delicately at the question of where a person's personality 'is' between death and later revival, and describes several ongoing scientific studies of near-death experiences.
So, "stored in the still-capable-of-working brain cells" isn't a good enough answer?

If a person's brain can still function well with half of it removed, is it that surprising that it can also survive what amounts to a temporary loss of power?

Nonsense (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883871)

> The article goes on to probe delicately at the question of where a person's personality
> 'is' between death and later revival...

Do they also discuss the color of zero or how wide is up?

Re:Nonsense (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883899)

Do they also discuss the color of zero or how wide is up?
Black and pretty damn wide!

Re:Nonsense (1)

jimmux (1096839) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884359)

I take it that you are not a synesthete [wikipedia.org] , or you would already know the answer to that.

It is profoundly mysterious (2, Insightful)

tylersoze (789256) | more than 7 years ago | (#19883971)

Starting with the hypothesis that consciousness is purely a physical thing (i.e. the atoms and electric signals firing in your brain, and there is no soul or wonky business like that)--a hypothesis that I happen to agree with. It is a *profoundly* mysterious question if it would, in fact, be the same "you" inside if your brain were switched off for a while and then turned back on. Suppose in the time you were shut off, it were possible to make an exact copy of yourself, down to the atomic level, and then both copies were turned back on. Which one is "you"? Obviously both of you would think you were the original since you share the exact same memories.

It's one of those questions that seem unanswerable. Personally I feel it has something to do with the continuity of brain activity. You interrupt that, and whatever that "spark" is ceases to be, and if the brain is turned back on, it would be a different "you". Which is why I'd never take a transporter ride and think actual working cryonics would be pointless since I would never experience waking back up, it would be a different consciousness, albeit one that thinks everything went just fine. If ever underwent either, I would assume the "me" that woke back up would have some lingering doubts. :)

One of the many philosophical papers on this: http://www.benbest.com/philo/doubles.html [benbest.com]

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (4, Informative)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884143)

It is a *profoundly* mysterious question if it would, in fact, be the same "you" inside if your brain were switched off for a while and then turned back on.
In the East, they have been dealing with this question for thousands of years. A Hindu might answer, yes, of course you would be the same person. This 'switching off' happens every night when you are in deep, dreamless sleep. Yet you still wake up and are the same person the next morning. This is one of the basis for their argument for cosmic consciousness, or the 'godhead' or super-soul.

If you don't buy that this happens at night, you can make a good argument that this certainly does happen during a coma, when there is little to no electrical activity in the brain. Alternatively, you can anesthetize certain parts of the brain, and also cause the personality to disappear.

It's one of those questions that seem unanswerable. Personally I feel it has something to do with the continuity of brain activity. You interrupt that, and whatever that "spark" is ceases to be, and if the brain is turned back on, it would be a different "you".
The eastern philosophies argue that all phenomena, from electrical activity in the brain, to the existence of rocks, are chaotic, always in flux. In other words, you are a different 'you' for every moment of your existence. It's like saying, "I was once an 8-year-old boy, but now I'm a thirty-year-old man." Well, wait a minute -- isn't there only one you? How can you be both an boy and a man? The answer is that 'you' are a continuation of a series, a phenomenon, like the flame of a candle, or a river. The flame is never the same flame from one moment to the next, nor does a river ever have the same water or same banks, at any moment. Yet will still perceive it as the continuity of the same 'thing'.

The idea of the 'you' as a fixed, permanent thing, seems to be an idea that traces back to Greek philosophy. They were always looking for unchanging, eternal, fixed, stable 'things'. And it really breaks down when we try to apply that to the self or consciousness. Eastern philosophy seems more advanced in this respect -- it says there are no things, only processes or phenomena that are *always* changing.

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884491)

""I was once an 8-year-old boy, but now I'm a thirty-year-old man." Well, wait a minute -- isn't there only one you? How can you be both an boy and a man?"

Indeed. I think it was Dawkins who said it in a TED speech - "not a single atom of you now is the same as those of the young boy you supposedly once were."

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884191)

In a paper at Uni we talked about this sort of thing. Another question was: if a mechanical "neuron substitute" were developed and it was possible to replace one neuron at a time, apart from taking an incredibly long time, is there a point at which you stop being you? Is it possible to completely change from biological to mechanical and back again and still be the same person?

interesting questions ...

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884235)

It is a *profoundly* mysterious question if it would, in fact, be the same "you" inside if your brain were switched off for a while and then turned back on.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. If we accept the hypothesis that consciousness is an illusion, there's not *really* a "you" to begin with. "You" are a process that your brain runs while it is active. So, when you restart your brain, your "you" process would run again like normal. If you duplicate your brain completely, there would be two "you"s running.

Personally I feel it has something to do with the continuity of brain activity.

My understanding is that the bulk of the state of your brain is contained in the wiring of it, and like Flash memory, this content doesn't go away when the power is off (provided that your brain meat doesn't deteriorate when the power is off). Maybe your short-term memory is stored in a chemical or electrical state and like SRAM and would be lost if the power is turned off.

it would be a different consciousness, albeit one that thinks everything went just fine.

Even if this were true and you did have a somehow "different" consciousness, you would never even know it.

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (3, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884347)

Which one is "you"?...It's one of those questions that seem unanswerable.

Which is often an indication of bad assumptions.

Which is "you" after the duplication? First we ought to ask, is there a "you" before the duplication?

Look closely. What is this "you"? "Your" body? That's not the same from moment to moment, atoms entering and leaving with every breath. "Your" thoughts? Just as changing and fluid. "Your" memories? But "you" are making new ones and forgetting old ones each day.

Go down to a stream and sit on the rocks. [unreasonable.org] Perhaps you'll see a spot where whirlpools form for a bit, a knot of water that under the conditions takes on a perceptible form for a few seconds, then melts away as conditions change. Then, a little later, in the same spot, another whirlpool forms.

Is it the same whirlpool?

The question isn't meaningful. "Same" here is a construction of mind, a mere question of our agreements about language, not denotative of any truth about the world.

"You" are just a character in the story being told by your brain.

One story about Zen Master Bankei says that he was very scared of death as a child. When he had his great enlightenment, he realized that "he" could never die, because "he" had never been born. Now that's liberation!

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (1)

DaftShadow (548731) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884369)

Here's my question to you: What does it matter?

If you accept the reality that you are simply a biological computing machine, and you understand that you can completely and utterly replicate or replace this machine and its entire operating system and dataset, why would you care in the slightest about which 'version' of you is available.

- DaftShadow

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (1)

Fweeky (41046) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884465)

Personally I feel it has something to do with the continuity of brain activity. You interrupt that, and whatever that "spark" is ceases to be, and if the brain is turned back on, it would be a different "you".
Smells like latent dualism to me. Either you think you're embodied in the information stored and processed by your nervous system, or you think there's some mysterious extra, which provides "youness".

And true, dualism kind of feels right; it can't just be some dumb electrochemical process going on inside our heads truely "experiencing" being us, there's got to be some extra spark which seperates us from that, because, damnit, I'm here! Experiencing stuff!

I try not to do my thinking with my feelings, though; especially not in cases they're unlikely to be optimized for. And copies of mind-states and nature of consciousness? Yeah..

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884527)

"And true, dualism kind of feels right; it can't just be some dumb electrochemical process going on inside our heads truely "experiencing" being us, there's got to be some extra spark which seperates us from that, because, damnit, I'm here! Experiencing stuff!"

There is also the fact that when you take a dead person and remove the thing that was making them dead, say it was that they had no blood in their system or a blocked pipe, when you put them back together and press the power switch they don't start up again. Machines that run on deterministic principles like car engines will happily spring back into life once that blocked pipe has been cleaned.

This does suggest that conciseness is more than the sum of it's parts. It seems to be a four dimensional phenomena. A process.

P.S. none of this is mystical... yet...

Re:It is profoundly mysterious (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884477)

You raise an interesting question: Memory, do brains organize material to reflect memory in a universal way, where you could take any brain and download some memories into another brain, or is it more like each memory being built up of other memories? Are memories stored in physical space like they are on computer media or paper documents, or do they only exist as a semi permanent standing wave of electromagnetic forces?

If personality and memory is basically an em field why can't it propagate outside of the body?

This sounds familiar (1)

doyoulikeworms (1094003) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884005)

I believe George A. Romero might have made some films about this sort of thing.

Re:This sounds familiar (1)

Lesrahpem (687242) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884509)

I believe the playstation game Parasite Eve explored this concept as well.

Vitals (1)

potatoeater (999315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884027)

Who else immediately thought of the book Vitals by Greg Bear? This book deals more with aging and is a fun conspiracy theory.

Ooooh! Stopping Death! (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884033)

Ooooh! Learning how to stop cell death!?! Oooooh! Fancy-schmancy doctors! Thing they're so special because they're trying to figure out how to stop death! Who cares about that? C'mon. Give me more iPhone news! C'mon, I hear Apple's introducing a new color... ;)

Mitochondria and Mutant Monkeys (2, Funny)

UrktheTurk (1026122) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884111)

I've known that mitochondria cause cell death ever since I played Parasite Eve. Of course, the immediate cause of cell death was the fireball that the 3 tailed rat just threw at you.

I thought it said "Mitichlorians and Death" (1)

myth_of_sisyphus (818378) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884337)

I was anxious to read the article to see if the Mitichlorians had something to do with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's not-death experiences.

kinda old news (1)

StrahdVZ (1027852) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884343)

This is kindof old news (or at least, an old experiment), albeit with a little extra detail (ie. that its the mitochondria effecting the cellular respiration).

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/2 1/1637245 [slashdot.org]

What interests me is that it brings up philosophical questions about the definition of life. By shutting down the cellular respiratory system they are in effect turning it into a lifeless clump of molecules - with as much life as a block of stone.

The reanimation process is therefore activating the life within the cells. Fascinating.

Oh great! (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884405)

Make it even more likely that I'll die yelling and screaming in a flaming car wreck instead of peacefully in my sleep.

Scifi Lives! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19884429)

Cool. I worked on a project a few years ago where my job was to come up with various scientifictional anti-aging medicines, and one of our focuses was on mitochondria; of course at the time we thought that mitochondria made good technobabble and real anti-aging research on them was way farther away than this, but its good to see ourselves proven wrong. :)

Passage (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 7 years ago | (#19884507)

There is an excellent novel "Passage" by Connie Willis involving scientists researching near death experiences (NDEs). (This is fiction about science, rather than Science Fiction, although she writes that too.) They're also doing battle with a crackpot researcher who vigorously prompts patients into "remembering" angels etc etc.
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