The process of anastasis could mean death is potentially reversible.
Postdoc student at John Hopkins University, Hogan Tang, made the ground-breaking discovery about Anastasis. The assumption has always been that once a cell is on death row, there is no reversal of that decree, made by our body. Astonishingly, he witnessed that this is entirely untrue!
Dr. Denise Montell, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, discovered Tang in 2008. She was beginning her research at John Hopkins University when he contacted her. At first, she was skeptical about the cell death reversal he had witnessed. However, ultimately she invited him to join her lab.
Scientists first describe the process of apoptosis
What science has always believed is that once a cell is too damaged, it commits suicide. Initially, a critical molecule called the executioner caspase becomes activated. This molecule dices up the cell until it shrivels. The surrounding cells then devour it.
Tang was experimenting with the process of apoptosis induction in cells. He added a toxin, in this case, ethanol, to cell cultures. Then, he painstakingly removed all of the ethanol. To his utter surprise, the majority of the cells recovered! They literally sprang back to life, even after the administration of the kiss of death!
Morell and Tang began pursuing repeated observations of this death reversal in different cell types
They went on to witness around a dozen different types of mammalian cells spring back to life. Consequently, this prompted the scientists to find classical scholars to name the process. The process received the name anastasis, which translates from Greek to “rising to life.”
Thus far, this is a developing concept that raises more questions than answers. But the exciting prospects are manifold. A Professor at the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, Dr. Andrew Fraser, raised some pertinent questions.
The discovery of Anastasis can mean miraculous breakthroughs for many dying people
Cell recovery is good news for sufferers of heart attacks, stroke, and ischemia. However, Fraser believes that encouraging anastasis could cause deadly cancers to develop. A disturbing observation made on rare occasions was that the recovered cells contained DNA mutations.
Morell and Tang are equally concerned that this could spawn cancer growth. Anastasis causes recovered cells to multiply and migrates, characteristic of what cancer does.
They also noticed that after 12 hours the cells had not yet returned to their original condition
Does this mean that anastasis permanently alters cells? Is anastasis what occurs when cancers return in aggressive and untreatable forms?
In June 2016, Tang submitted a research proposal to look into how anastasis suppression could help cure cancer. By observing and identifying its occurrence, such mutated cells could become therapeutic targets.
The discovery of Anastasis opens up many realms of possibility
Many terminal illnesses could become reversible. Diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer‘s arise from excess cell death. The brain and the heart need their cells to stay alive for the entire duration of a person’s life. Anastasis could potentially prevent those cells from dying.
As research into Anastasis and apoptosis progresses, we could see the development of cures for deadly diseases. Like changing gears in a car, we can learn how to advance cell regrowth and likewise reverse it, at will. Over the coming decades, scientists could potentially understand how to stop death altogether. We live in exciting times indeed!