- Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death, or “cellular suicide.” It is different from necrosis, in which cells die due to injury.
- Apoptosis is an orderly process in which the cell’s contents are packaged into small packets of membrane for “garbage collection” by immune cells.
- Apoptosis removes cells during development, eliminates potentially cancerous and virus-infected cells, and maintains balance in the body.
Video: Overview of apoptosis
Apoptosis vs. necrosis
- They are killed by things that harm them (such as toxic chemicals or physical injury), a process called necrosis.
- They are triggered to undergo programmed cell death. The best-understood form of programmed cell death is apoptosis.
Necrosis (the messy way)
Apoptosis (the tidy way)
Why do cells undergo apoptosis?
- Some cells need to be “deleted” during development – for instance, to whittle an intricate structure like a hand out of a larger block of tissue.
- Some cells are abnormal and could hurt the rest of the organism if they survive, such as cells with viral infections or DNA damage.
- Cells in an adult organism may be eliminated to maintain balance – to make way for new cells or remove cells needed only for temporary tasks.