A new study reveals how death in organisms, including humans, spreads like a wave from cell to cell until the whole individual is dead.
The good news is that, in certain cases, scientists may be able to stop the biochemical process that leads to this death wave, reviving the individual.
PHOTOS: Patenting Death
It's difficult to study such life and death matters on animals. Who would want to volunteer for a study that ended in death? So researchers instead focused their analysis on worms, which surprisingly possess mechanisms that are similar to those that are active in mammals.
The study is published in the latest issue of PLoS Biology.
A remarkable feature of worms is that, as they die, the spread of death through their bodies can easily be seen under magnification. It's a fluorescent blue light caused by necrosis, or the cell death pathway. This, in turn, is dependent upon calcium signaling.
The source of the blue hue is a molecule called anthranillic acid.
David Gems from the Institute of Health Aging at University College London, who led the study, explained: