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Apoptosis in health and disease 

Apoptosis in health and disease

Chapter:
Apoptosis in health and disease
Author(s):

Andrew H. Wyllie

and Mark J. Arends

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199204854.003.0406

August 28, 2014: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 26 March 2017

Apoptosis is the process by which single cells die in the midst of living tissues. It is responsible for most—perhaps all—of the cell-death events that occur during the formation of the early embryo and the sculpting and moulding of organs. Apoptotic cell death continues to play a critical role in the maintenance of cell numbers in those tissues in which cell turnover persists into adult life, such as the epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract, the bone marrow, and lymphoid system including both B- and T-cell lineages. Apoptosis is the usual mode of death in the targets of natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T-cells, and in involution and atrophy induced by hormonal and other stimuli. It also appears in the reaction of many tissues to injury, including mild degrees of ischaemia, exposure to ionizing and ultraviolet radiation, or treatment with cancer chemotherapeutic drugs. Excessive or too little apoptosis play a significant part in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity, infectious disease, AIDS, stroke, myocardial disease, and cancer. When cancers regress, apoptosis is part of the mechanism involved. Here the cellular processes and molecular mechanisms of apoptosis are set out, together with a conspectus of its involvement in many diseases.

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