The process of aging and senescence is associated with a decline in several organ functions and ultimately takes away independence and reduces quality of life. The precariously marginal functional reserves of the immune, pulmonary, and cardiovascular systems are among the most important causes of increased hospitalization in the older population. When complicated by chronic diseases, as is often the case, the problem is magnified. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a process that goes on continuously throughout life. It is involved in embryogenesis for proper organ and tissue development. After birth and through adulthood, it helps eliminate unneeded and damaged cells. There is evidence that advanced age is associated with dysregulation of apoptosis. Several studies have shown age-related changes in the levels of proteins and factors that regulate apoptosis. This could explain the age-associated increased prevalence of cancers, certain autoimmune diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders in older people. More studies are needed to further elucidate the process of apoptosis. With this knowledge, the use of gene therapy and apoptosis modulators may someday have therapeutic value in preventing the functional decline we see in the older population.
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