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Apoptosis

Why Cells Commit Suicide, The Regulatory Mechanism

Death is an inevitable fact of life for organisms. Increasingly, biologists have come to realize that death is also, in many cases, an important and predestined fate of individual cells of organisms. Apoptosis is a process by which cells in a multicellular organism commit suicide. While cells can die as a result of necrosis, apoptosis is a form of death that the cell itself initiates, regulates, and executes using an elaborate arsenal of cellular and molecular machinery. For this reason, the term apoptosis is often used interchangeably with the term "programmed cell death," or PCD (although technically, apoptosis is but one particular form of programmed cell death). There is some disagreement on the origins of the word. The word apoptosis has ancient Greek origins, referring to the falling of leaves, or possibly "dropping of scabs" or "falling off of bones." There is even less agreement on its proper pronunciation, and even specialists in the field seem to use every possible way to say the word. "A-pop-TOE-sis" and "AP-oh-TOE-sis" are both common.

Magnification (6000×) of apoptosis, or cell death. Programmed cell death in the human body allows, among other things, for young children's brains to develop and for a female's monthly menstruation to occur.

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Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 1