In the midst of life—cell death: what is it, what is it good for, and how to study it Academic Article uri icon


  • Cell death, one of the most fundamental biological processes, has not made it into the public consciousness in the same way that genetic inheritance, cell division, or DNA replication has. Everyone knows they get their genes from their parents, but few would be aware that even before they were born a lot of essential cell death has shaped their development. The greater population, for the most part, is blissfully unaware that every day millions of their own cells die in a programmed way and that this is essential for normal human physiology-their well-being, in fact. Nowhere is the burial liturgy, "In the midst of life we are in death," more apt. Despite this public underappreciation, cell death research is a major industry. A search in PubMed for "apoptosis," a special form of cell death that is caused by caspases, returns approximately 280,000 hits. The intense research interest arises from the realization that abnormal cell death responses play an important role in two of the biggest killers in the western world: cancer and cardio/cerebrovascular disease. Furthermore, the manner in which cells die can also influence the development of autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases. It is therefore of paramount importance to ensure that experiments accurately quantitate and correctly identify cell death in all its guises. That is the goal of this protocol collection.

publication date

  • 2016