Apoptosis background

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Background: what is apoptosis?

Born and death constitute one of the basic natural laws. Our body, blood, cells all take part in their own cycles. For a single cell, it will finally die. There are two pathways for cells to die: necrosis and programmed cell death (PCD). There are two kinds of programmed cell death, apoptosis and autophagy. Apoptosis is a process that most of the cells in organisms will experience in their life cycles. It can remove excess and potentially dangerous cells, to maintain a balance of cell numbers. This balance is important for organ formation and stability of microenvironment. For an 8-14 yeas’ old child, 20-30 billion cells progress apoptosis per day. In embryos’ development, the apoptosis of interphalangeal cells leads to differentiation of fingers and toes.


History: origin of apoptosis

More than 100 years ago, scientists found the phenomenon of apoptosis. The originator of cellular physiology, Rudolph Virchow found there are two styles of cell death: one is necrosis, and the other is necrobiosis. But until 1965, this topic didn’t become popular. John Kerr, a pathologist of Queensland university, firstly separate apoptosis from the necrosis. Then he was invited into the university of Aberdeen. In 1972, together with Alastair Currie and Andrew Wylie, he published a milestone-like literature on British Journal of Cancer, with the name of Apoptosis: a basic biological phenomenon with wide-ranging implications in tissue kinetics. With suggestion of J. Cormack, a Greek professor of university of Aberdeen, they named process of natural cell death with apoptosis, as a comparison with the unusual cell death, necrosis.

For recent decades, with application of molecular techniques, research in field of apoptosis developed rapidly and provided insight into mechanisms of apoptosis and relationships between apoptosis and diseases. The Nobel Prize of 2002 was given to Sydney Brenner, John E. Sulston and Robert Horvitz who contributed prominently in research of apoptosis.