Cryptobiosis research?

John Hunter jdhunter at nitace.bsd.uchicago.edu
Thu Dec 7 18:47:11 EST 2000

Gee, I didn't know you were going to get philosophical on me.  But
since you did....  I think it presents an interesting case, one that
I'll think about for a while and get some advice from my philosophy of
science friends.  But my off-the-cuff opinion is that these organisms
are 'not alive' (I don't use 'dead').  I think they are life capable,
but I don't see any reason to call them alive if they have no
metabolic processes, and in the absence of external imposition
(somebody finally gets around to watering the plant), they will remain
'not alive'.  Thus they lack the ability to act as agents on their own
behalf, manipulating the environment in one way or another.  I think
that is a necessary condition for a living thing.  So perhaps we
have three categories: dead, life capable, and alive.

Then a person on the operating table who has just lost a heart beat
(or whatever the appropriate standard for clinically dead is) is life
capable, but a person 30 years in the grave is not.  A cryogenically
preserved animal is life capable.

What do you think?

John Hunter

>>>>> "George" == George Hammond <ghammond at mediaone.net> writes:

    George> GH: Yeah... I've discovered that much, Glucose and
    George> Trehalose (sugar molecules) bind to the polar sites
    George> normally occupied by water and thereby lock the structural
    George> mechanism into a rigid mechanical state until water is
    George> added again.  Trehalose I would guess is your "chaparone"
    George> molecule mentioned above.  The interesting question to me
    George> is whether or not these animals are technically "dead" or
    George> "alive" while they are in this state?  Claims that "no
    George> metabolic activity" takes place while they are in the
    George> Cryptobiotic state seem to be confirmed.  If this is so,
    George> then it seems to tell me that "Life" ultimately exists at
    George> the "molecular" level and not at the cellular level.
    George> Would you agree that this phenomena supports that
    George> conclusion?

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