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Apoptosis

Similar term(s): programmed cell death.

Definition:

This process gets rid of unneeded cells and is particularly important for “sculpting” tissue and organ structure during development of the embryo (or larval metamorphosis in insects), but may occur at any time even in adult cells when a tissue needs to be remodeled.

Signals to trigger apoptosis may come from within the cell or from outside, by stimulating suicide receptors in the cell’s external membrane. Internal signals producing apoptosis depend on interactions of several proteins and may serve to protect the organism from cancer by killing cells that have pre-cancerous changes.

Source: Gerontology Research Group ; Glossary for Terms in Gerontology 

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