Apoptosis Theory

Apoptosis or programmed cell death is a process of systematically dismantling key cellular components as the outcome of a programmed intracellular cascade of genetically determined steps (Chapter 4). It describes the orchestrated collapse of a cell and involves

■ membrane dissolution,

■ protein fragmentation,

■ chromatin condensation, and

■ DNA degradation followed by rapid engulfment of corpses by neighboring cells.

It is an essential part of life at all levels of multicellular organisms; it is conserved as the way cells die from worms to mammals (120). Alzheimer's and stroke-damaged cells die due to apoptosis (Chapters 7 and 8). Evidence suggests that all cells of multicellular organisms carry within themselves the information necessary to bring about their own destruction and that this process has been evolutionarily conserved. However, the key to understanding this process in the context of aging concerns when and under which conditions the process can be invoked. In particular, the possibility exists that one major function of apoptosis is to serve as a precisely targeted defense mechanism against dysfunctional and/or potentially immortal (cancer) cells. More generally, apoptosis provides us with a controllable process that is clearly important in regulating cell number. Apoptosis and mitosis are controlled by gene-based signaling systems, which can interact at the population and cell levels to bring about the net gain or net loss of cells in a particular tissue (36).

How to Stay Young

How to Stay Young

For centuries, ever since the legendary Ponce de Leon went searching for the elusive Fountain of Youth, people have been looking for ways to slow down the aging process. Medical science has made great strides in keeping people alive longer by preventing and curing disease, and helping people to live healthier lives. Average life expectancy keeps increasing, and most of us can look forward to the chance to live much longer lives than our ancestors.

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