ApoptosisFundamentals, Pathways, Clinical Applications and Role in Disease

Published October 2007 24 lectures
Prof. Michael Hengartner
Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Summary

Apoptosis is a highly conserved, specialized form of programmed cell death, which is used by multicellular animals to remove cells that are in excess, in the way, or potentially dangerous to the organism. Two distinct signaling pathways can lead to apoptotic cell death in humans: the first is activated through... read moreengagement of receptors at the cell surface, the other proceeds via mitochondria. Molecules in both pathways have been identified, but several key steps are not yet well understood at the mechanistic level. Work in the last few years has also led to an increased appreciation of non-apoptotic cell death pathways, including necrosis and autophagy.

Alterations in apoptosis – either too little or too much cell death – are associated with a wide range of human pathologies, ranging from cancer to neurodegenerative diseases to autoimmunity. The pharmaceutical industry has invested significant efforts into developing drugs that target apoptotic molecules, with the hope that modulation of apoptosis will prove to be an effective mechanism to treat these various diseases.