Potential Role of Apoptosis in Immunity

This is a fascinating area of investigation, because apoptosis of immune cells has been linked to both beneficial and deleterious effects. When immune cells undergo apoptosis this can be a necessary event for the host to prevent propagation of inflammation. As an example, it has been argued that Crohn's disease, a chronic relapsing form of inflammatory bowel disease, results in part from a failure of activated T-helper cells to undergo apoptosis (4). Similarly, apoptosis and consumption of infected cells by neutrophils may represent an important mechanism for elimination of pathogens. In contrast, apoptosis of infected cells has been hypothesized as a major cause for both proliferation of invasive organisms such as Shigella, and release of proinflammatory mediators (5). Additionally, death of immune cells is potentially an important feature of the "immune escape" of pathogens and tumor cells.

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