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Can a human cell exist independent of the rest of the body? [Answered: YES]


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You can provide it with nutrients etc in a petri dish and it would survive for an amount of time. Not indefinately though. Some cancer cells have such incredible regenerative properties they are almost immortal.

The thing with human cells is they have become specialized, enhancing the abilities of the organism as a whole, but losing thier independace, for example a muscle cell relys on blood cells to bring glucose (one example) and take away waste products.

So in a dish yes and on its own no.

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Theoretically, even muscle cells have all the DNA needed to become blood cells. These cells are better designed for the independent life style on the petrie dish. What prevents this quick adaptation is the configurational capacitance within all the proteins within the muscle cell. There is a symbioses between the bulk contents of the cell, that differentiates the DNA. The DNA, in turn, maintains the proteins, which maintains the DNA, etc. This capacitance is sturdy enough, so the differentiated control system only tweaks about the baseline.

 

You may have to start by changing the configurational furniture within the cell so the DNA symbiosis changes. Stem cells are like moving into a new place with all the little things, that make a house a home, still in the boxes. It much easier to shift the furniture around to decorate for the occasion to achieve a steady state symbiosis. For example, a blood cell might be up for the task but we first need to decorate before the DNA moves in. We could simulate this by putting muscle DNA into one of our blood cells. This is sort of a furnished house for the DNA.

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IIRC, there's a strain of cancer cells, called HeLa, which were cultured in the 1950's and are still going strong. They appear to be completely immortal and capable of surviving indefinitely outside of a human body if given basic culture media. Some people have even suggested calling them a new species, though that's contentious.

 

Mokele

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There is a difference between keeping cells alive and propagating them. Generally for continuous cultivation you have to use immortalized cell lines. These can be immoratlized tumor lines like the above mentioned HeLa cells, but they do not have to be.

They generally have to be genetically altered, though (often with viral vectors).

Just btw. it does not work well with sperm cells, as they are unable to propagate.

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thanks. really helpful.

 

npts2020 mentioned skin grafts; i'm guessing several skin cells (ie, a piece of tissue, a piece of skin) are the starting point for this - rather than one individual cell. but could literally one individual skin cell be taken from someone, put in a petrie dish, 'fed' and 'cared for', and survive and propagate?

 

(also, i've learned recently that we consist of around 75 trillion cells, and there are around 200 different types of cell; how many of the 200 types of cell could survive as a single cell in a dish?)

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Just btw. it does not work well with sperm cells, as they are unable to propagate.

I think you may find that sperm cells exist quite satisfactoraly outside the body. I think that at least one case has arisen where the biological father of a child was dead before the child was conceived.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1809296.stm

3 years and counting.

The process of fertilisation takes place in petri dishes fairly regularly these days too- so called test tube babies are not usually conceived in test tubes.

 

Propagate is exactly what sperm cells do, though not generally on their own.

 

If you had to pick a type of human cell to remove from the body and keep alive and well - sufficiently so to perform its original function- let's say 3 days later with the least intervention, what cell would you choose?

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I meant of course keeping them alive on a dish or flask. The activity of sperm cells degrades fairly quickly (though there slightly more robust than a number of other cells). You are aware that sperms used for fertilizations are kept frozen until needed?

 

Propagate is exactly what sperm cells do, though not generally on their own.

That is the whole point, isn't it?

 

If you had to pick a type of human cell to remove from the body and keep alive and well - sufficiently so to perform its original function- let's say 3 days later with the least intervention, what cell would you choose?

 

I would go for lymphocyte cultures. Even non-immortalized one can keep them alive for a few generations (far longer than three days).

Mind you, the majority of cells would survive a couple of days using the right medium and incubator.

What I am talking about are sustained cultures (as in established cell lines).

Edited by CharonY
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thanks again

 

(does anyone know the answer to my last question ^^^about the individual skin cell, and the types of cell (out of the 200 or so different types) that could survive as single entities outside the body?)

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As I said before, most cell types survive outside the body for a certain amount of time, but most do not propagate. I remember that skin grafts, for example, could be kept viable for around 3 weeks (at around 4°C). There are of course always stem cells.

 

but could literally one individual skin cell be taken from someone, put in a petrie dish, 'fed' and 'cared for', and survive and propagate?

I remember that the Fraunhofer institute is trying to create skin grafts based on ones own cells. I do not have the details, though. I think it was with the help of maybe adult stem cells. Most differentiated cells can not be kept alive or even growing and propagating for a prolonged time. That is why there is all the buzz about stem cells.

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  • 3 months later...
As I said before, most cell types survive outside the body for a certain amount of time, but most do not propagate. I remember that skin grafts, for example, could be kept viable for around 3 weeks (at around 4°C). There are of course always stem cells.

 

how long can stem cells last?{by themselves}

 

let me make sure i know what i think i do, stem cells are cells that are "hybernating" until needed, then they turn into a cell that is needed. wether it be skin cell or nerve cell or whatever? if so, stem cells have a reason to be fussed about. theyre very intersting.

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how long can stem cells last?{by themselves}

 

Stem cells succumb to senescence and death just like every other cell (but at a slower rate). The average healthy stem cell lives for the life of the individual. In culture stem cells (and germ cells) are "immortal".

 

On a side note, cancer cells (which behave like stem cells) appear to be immortal too, although that would be impossible to test! All HeLa cells, which are standard experimental cancer cells in labs worldwide, are derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks in 1950/51. The cells keep dividing and living, with no signs of aging. They appear immortal.

 

Conclusion: stem cells, cancer cells, and germ cells are immortal.


Merged post follows:

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Just to clarify my post, you may wonder why stem cells have a life span in vivo but not in tissue culture. It's still unknown whether aging in stem cells is an intrinsic property or a whether stem cells age within the context of an aging tissue environment. The fact that they survive and divide longer in culture lends support to the second hypothesis.

Edited by MM6
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