Why, how some human tissues struggle to live after death: grant to fund research conducted by IU


INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana University research into why cells and tissues fight for life even after a human dies will be funded by a $ 1.8 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation aimed at answering the “big questions” of science. The effort will be led by Chandan Sen, director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering and J. Stanley Battersby Professor Emeritus and Professor of Surgery at the IU School of Medicine.

The potential research results could have a major impact on the general conduct of biomedical research, recognizing death as a biological variable in experimental studies. A better understanding of how the body prepares to die and the molecular mechanisms behind it could also help researchers better define human death – both scientifically and philosophically – and learn more about how the cause of death affects different cells and tissues in our body, which could lead to better outcomes for organ donation recipients or to new treatments that trigger tissue survival responses to improve human health.

Sen will be joined by an IU research team who will explore the implications of the results and develop approaches in philosophy of biology that build on these results.

“Our work addresses some of the deepest and most puzzling questions about life and death facing humanity,” Sen said. “It calls into question the definition of death and the meaning of surviving tissues and organs. We hope to find out how parts of organisms prepare and manage to live, even as the organism dies. “

The vision of the Templeton Foundation is one of infinite scientific advancement, in which everyone aspires and attains a deeper understanding of the universe and their place in it. Templeton’s Science & the Big Questions funding area supports innovative efforts to answer the deepest questions facing humanity, such as the questions Sen and his colleagues will explore.

“We are extremely grateful to the Templeton Foundation for their support of this important research and for the opportunity to be part of the foundation’s Science & the Big Questions initiative,” UI Vice President for Research Fred H. Cate mentionned. “The research conducted by Dr. Sen and his colleagues promises not only to advance human understanding, but also to lead to innovations in medical treatment.

In particular, the work of the IU research team aims to move biology and medicine away from positioning the life of organisms as unified and framed by birth and death. These developments could include the emergence of concepts such as the superorganism, the extended phenotype, and selfish genes. In medicine, the success of organ transplants and the acceptance of the idea of ​​brain death have also undermined the idea that the organism lives and dies as a single unified entity.

“Our findings will open up wide possibilities for medical treatment and also broaden the philosophical understanding of the concepts of life and the organization of living things,” Sen said. “For example, the skin is the largest organ in the human body, capable of sustaining life at the cellular level long after death.”

The grant team leaders are:

  • Sen, who is the principal investigator.
  • Sashwati Roy and Kanhaiya Singh from the Department of Surgery at IU School of Medicine, who will lead the analytical team.
  • George Sandusky of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at IU School of Medicine, who will lead the tissue procurement team.
  • Dr Peter Schwartz from the IU Center for Bioethics, Amit Hagar from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine at the IU College of Arts and Sciences, and Tim O’Connor from the Cognitive Sciences program at the College of the Arts and Sciences, who will lead the Philosophy and Bioethics team.

The three-year grant will also support scientific studies and staff efforts; several postdoctoral researchers and graduate students; workshops; public education and awareness; conferences; and publications.

UI search

World-class UI researchers have been the engine of innovation and creative initiatives that have counted for 200 years. From curing testicular cancer to working with NASA to research life on Mars, IU has earned its reputation as a world-class research institution. Backed by $ 854 million last year from the federal government, foundations, and other external backers, IU researchers are building collaborations and discovering new solutions that improve lives in Indiana and around the world .

IU School of Medicine

IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the United States and is ranked among the nation’s top medical schools annually by US News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to cutting-edge medical research, and rich campus life in nine cities across Indiana, including rural and urban areas still known for their quality of life.


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