Date: 04 Dec 2009

Apoptosis: A Way to Maintain Healthy Individuals

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Apoptosis, the best known form of programmed cell death, is tightly regulated by a number of sensors, signal transducers and effectors. Apoptosis is mainly active during embryonic development, when deletion of redundant cellular material is required for the correct morphogenesis of tissues and organs; moreover, it is essential for the maintenance of tissue homeostasis during cell life. Cells also activate apoptosis when they suffer from various insults, such as damage to DNA or to other cellular components, or impairment of basic processes, such as DNA replication and DNA repair. Removal of damaged cells is fundamental in maintaining the health of organisms. In addition, apoptosis induction following DNA damage is exploited to kill cancer cells. In this chapter we will review the main features of developmental and induced apoptosis.