Apoptosis: A review of pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic pathways and dysregulation in disease


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Mauria A. O'Brien, University of Illinois, 1800 W Hazelwood Dr, Urbana, IL 61802, USA.
Email: maobrien@illinois.edu


Objective – To review the human and veterinary literature on the biology of apoptosis in health and disease.

Data Sources – Data were examined from the human and veterinary literature identified through Pubmed and references listed in appropriate articles pertaining to apoptosis.

Human Data Synthesis – The role of apoptosis in health and disease is a rapidly growing area of research in human medicine. Apoptosis has been identified as a component of human autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and sepsis.

Veterinary Data Synthesis – Research data available from the veterinary literature pertaining to apoptosis and its role in diseases of small animal species is still in its infancy. The majority of veterinary studies focus on oncologic therapy. Most of the basic science and human clinical research studies use human blood and tissue samples and murine models. The results from these studies may be applicable to small animal species.

Conclusions – Apoptosis is the complex physiologic process of programmed cell death. The pathophysiology of apoptosis and disease is only now being closely evaluated in human medicine. Knowledge of the physiologic mechanisms by which tissues regulate their size and composition is leading researchers to investigate the role of apoptosis in human diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disease and sepsis. Because it is a multifaceted process, apoptosis is difficult to target or manipulate therapeutically. Future studies may reveal methods to regulate or manipulate apoptosis and improve patient outcome.