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Friday, December 14, 2012

When does life begin and when does it end?

It always fascinated me from the time, and I was very much concerned about origin of life. I try several times to co-relate things from scrap.
According to Veda and Purana, Bramha, Vishnu and Shiva, also known in the form of OM, were self-born and represent the commencement of the universe. These three are supposed to function as God of creation, God of protection and God of destruction. If something is created, no matter whether it is living or non-living, it has some time, meaning it has life till it is destroyed or dead. Its life depends on the quality of the matter it is made up of.
Veda confirms that Human Body is made up of Panchatatwa, the non-living matters, Water, Air, Heat, Earth and Sky. The modern science and the law of physics also confirm that these are the basis of our life.
Scientific explanation by Aristotle in the 4th century BC formulated that living cells develop from non-living matters. The living cells utilize non-living biomolecules for their developmental stability. It is not yet clear how these simple organic molecules could form a living cell? The Evolution Theory of Panspermia explains that there were seeds of life delivered to earth.
Miller-Urey in 1953 experimented and concluded that simple organic molecules could be building blocks of  life. These biomolecules also control and regulate cellular functions. They also noted that DNA and RNA bases could be formed through simulated chemical reaction.
The unit structure of our body is a Cell. Human body possesses more than 200 different types of cells and there are about 5 trillon cells in our body. These are somatic or body building cells. These cells contain entire human genome to build a human being.
In addition to them, man and woman possess special types of cells, the gamet cells. In Men, it is the sperm cell and in Women, it is an egg cell. In vivo, the life of sperm and egg cell is usually 1-2 days. But in in-vitro conditions, only cryo-preservation in liquid nitrogen can stretch their life to different duration. When these two precious cells are left to unite either in vivo or in vitro conditions, another single celled structure is formed called the zygote. From this zygote cell structure, Man and Woman will be developed and born in this world as individuals with the life expectancy of more than 100 years! Is not it interesting? 
The zygote seems to have some tricks of programming the developmental process and, may be, life expectancy too. How, when and what level does it program life expectancy of an individual cell? The zygotes undergo phases of cell cleavage and continuously divide into different cell types when it becomes an embryo.  During differentiation process, in a fetal life, they form different organs and systems of human body.
I have closely watched these cells during In-Vitro Fertilization treatment process, their cleaving process in cultured environment, the two-celled stage, four-celled stage, till blastocyst stage and pre-embryo. They then start differentiating into several cell types. There are specialized and responsible for the development of special organs, while the unspecialized cells are popular as stem cells now-a-days as they can be used to repair abnormal tissues of the body. These cells are extracted from a pre-embryo, cultured after their nucleus is removed from another cell without removing nucleus and allowed to fuse and grow. Thus, these fused growing cells carry the property of nucleus carrying cell. This is now a cloned cell prepared for particular purpose.

These days, not only cells and tissues, but a whole human can be cloned like an identical twin but clones differ in age. After the advent of cloning, it is clear that genetic material determines traits. Among all other cells, the embryonic tissue seems best for tissue cloning. It is not easy, but possible to clone any type of body cell or tissue. Its role is great in different disease state like Alzheimer's, Genetic disorders, where there is irreversible tissues damage. As such, the damaged tissue and be replaced by cloned tissues, so that the organ can function well. This is therapeutic  cloning. Modification and insertion of new type of genes delays the disease process. In addition, cloned embryos are supposed to produce smarter children. On the other hand, cloning technique has some answers to the origin of life given in Purana. In those era, the devil, Raktabiz was created by a drop of blood, and today fetal cord blood is used as one of the sources of stem cells for cloning, which may further be useful to create the whole human if not the similar Devil.
Overall these techniques have opened a new era in the line of Tissue engineering and Medicine apart from different types of grafts of different origin for replacement therapy. The successful application of implants, organ transplant and separation of conjoint twins assures a lot to develop in area.
On the other hand, there is also a great danger of such knowledge being misused. Unethical insertion of genes apart from the therapeutic purposes may even causes disasters.
There may be cross breeding of Human embryos with animal cells and some day pure human being with 46 chromosomes may be rare to identify . This part of science may develop newer creatures which may neither look like a human nor like an animal. With this technology, it looks possible to have ten headed Ravana, elephant-headed Ganesha and goat-headed Dakchhaprajapati around us in the years to come.
Such knowledge of creation and development has led to much confusion in this era. What is the eventual destiny of all these creatures? How do they vanish? Do they really vanish?
What is death and when does a man die?  Is it supposed to be the end of life?
There is also a great concern about death of an individual which is death of a million celled human. Does a human die when heart stops working, the ECG goes flat and there is no consciousness? It is just the death of these functional units, but all the cells and organs have not died. What about the organs transplantation (like eyes, kidney etc.)
after death? If these organs can be functional in another living individual how can we call it a dead? It is very important to note the death of different organs. Do we really know when all these organs die?
It is well known fact that in human context, a clinical death is declared after failure to regularize the functions of heart and lungs by all resuscitation measures. When there is loss of consciousness with cessation of all activities of the brain, brain death is declared and the individual is biologically dead.
Brain death can be compared to the death of central processing unit (CPU) of computer which loses the command to particular activities of body. This causes loss of command to pump blood by the heart, death of heart leads to loss of ventilation to lungs, death of lungs stops the blood flow into blood vessels and eventually there will be loss of response to all stimuli due to unavailability of nutrition.
Loss of blood circulation decreases the body temperature, gradually down below 37 degree which stops cellular metabolism and production of energy. When the source of free energy production in the body, necessary for the living cell function is stopped, the cells turn harder, change in color from pink to pallor to bluish to black.
If a young man's heart fails, transplantation of heart itself or an artificial circulation system to other organs along with the application of an artificial heart pump in place of  the heart may well revive the individual for quite some time though there may not be total consciousness. We can also switch on a ventilator and check all his survival possibilities. These are all trials to buy the time lag which has something to do with revitalization. In Hindu ritual a dead body should be cremated before it gets damaged. How long does the body take to be damaged? None of the religious books properly define death in relation to individual cell life.
In conclusion,
Ø  Every cell has definite life but who programs its life is yet not clear.
Ø  Human life begins from zygote stage.
Ø  Human cell has definite life but who programs its life is yet not clear.
Ø  All human body cells do not die when man dies.
Ø  There must be proper Scientific and religious outlines to declare when a man really dies. Perhaps there is no Life of human beings, rather, it is the lives of all cells in Toto, yet to be identified.
                                                                                                                       Dr.Uma Shrivastava