Cell Suicide in Health and Disease; December 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Duke, Ojcius, Young; 8 Page(s)
As you read this article, millions of your cells are dying. Relax. Most are sacrificing themselves to ensure your survival. Burgeoning research indicates that the health of all multicellular organisms, including humans, depends not only on the body¿s ability to produce new cells but on the ability of individual cells to self-destruct when they become superfluous or disordered. This critical process, today called apoptosis, or programmed cell death, was overlooked for decades. But biologists have recently made rapid strides in understanding how cellular suicide is enacted and controlled.
Many investigators are motivated both by scientific curiosity and by a desire to combat some of the world¿s most frightening diseases. It turns out that aberrant regulation of apoptosis--leading to too much or too little cell suicide-- probably contributes to such varied disorders as cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer¿s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.