Why do certain cells seek survival as the body dies? What guides this process?
Investigators from the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at Indiana University School of Medicine are exploring what happens to cells in the onset of human death and why certain tissues seek survival, even as the body dies. Faculty from the IU College of Arts + Sciences, with expertise in philosophy and bioethics, are collaborating with ICRME investigators, to study the biophysical, ethical and philosophical questions that will direct their efforts in discovery. Regenerative medicine, a promising new field of medicine that explores reprogramming or regenerating human cells and tissues, is a fitting approach to pursue post-mortem tissue conatus research — or research after human death. Combined with tissue engineering research, investigators are exploring how to improve or restore damaged tissues and other parts of the body, and their capacity to survive after death.
In 2021, the ICRME received a 3-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation to conduct human post-mortem tissue conatus research. Led by Chandan K. Sen, PhD, director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, research findings could help inform future biomedical research that recognizes death as a biological variable as well as a pathway to future clinical care that supports enhanced tissue survival, that may have implications for transplant recipients, forensic science and other clinical areas.
Today, the innate desire of living things to perpetuate life still exists. Do certain cells work independently and fight for survival? We want to determine if certain components of the human body seek an eternal existence and alter gene expression, and if so, which components, why and how?
Chandan K. Sen, PhD Director, Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering Associate Vice President of Military & Applied Research Indiana University