The Importance of Apoptosis

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Apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death, is a genetically regulated cell-suicide mechanism that is essential for our well-being. In this process, cells acquire the means of their own destruction in the form of an arsenal of deadly proteins, which they turn upon themselves. Usually apoptosis is for the good of the organism.

It is required in biological processes such as embryogenesis and homeostasis (maintenance of a stable body). It also destroys cells, which may present a risk to our health, such as cells, which have undergone DNA damage.

Its importance is shown by considering the serious consequences of reduced apoptosis. Tumors often form because of cancer cells developing the ability to suppress apoptosis, making them immortal and very dangerous.

The other extreme, when too much apoptosis occurs, is thought to play a role in the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and in the massive destruction of lymphocytes in AIDS and in the adverse consequences of heart attacks.

Accumulations of damaged cells is undesirable and apoptosis is the body’s mechanism for disposing of dead cells.

The aging process is associated with a failure of damaged cells to “kill themselves” via the process of apoptosis, increased (abnormal) apoptosis of non-damaged cells, increased resitance of (damaged) senescent cells to (normal) Apoptosis and failure of (normal) apoptosis to kill cancer cells. [1]

Between 50 and 70 billion cells die each day due to apoptosis in the average human adult. For an average child between the ages of 8 and 14, approximately 20 billion to 30 billion cells die a day.

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Figure: Apoptosis Process

There are three degrees of apoptosis that the body produces:

  • Inhibited Apoptosis
    • Allows cancer cells to survive. Permits cells damaged through aging to accumulate (clog the body).
  • Normal Apoptosis
    • Removes damaged, deformed Cells – e.g. aged cells, cancer cells. Normal apoptosis unfortunately does not discriminate – some healthy cells are forced to die.
  • Excessive Apoptosis
    • Kills and removes some non-damaged cells.

The goal is to maximise normal apoptosis within the body and to counteract excessive apoptosis.

Table: Nootropics/Nutraceuticals/Foods/Herbs/Spices that Counteract Excessive Apoptosis

Excessive Apoptosis

   

Catagory

Nootropics/Nutraceuticals/Foods/Herbs/Spices

Reference(s)

Hormones

   
 

Melatonin

[2]

Quinones

   
 

Coenzyme Q10

[3]

Vitamins

   
 

Vitamin B3

Niacinamide [4]

Herbs

   
 

Korean Ginseng

[5]

Table: Nootropics/Nutraceuticals/Foods/Herbs/Spices that Facilitate Normal Apoptosis

Normal Apoptosis    

Catagory

Nootropics/Nutraceuticals/Foods/Herbs/Spices

Reference(s)

Carotenoids

   
 

Crocin

Saffron [6]

Lipids

   
 

DHA

[7]

 

Perillyl Alcohol

[8]

 

Limonene

[9]

Minerals

   
 

Calcium

[10]

Polyphenols

   
 

Ellagic Acid

[11]

 

Curcumin

[12]

 

Epigallo-Catechin-Gallate

[13]

 

Pycnogenol

[14]

Sulfuric Compounds

   
 

Allicin

[15]

Vitamins

   
 

Vitamin C

[16]

Herbs

   
 

Green Tea

[17]

 

Saw Palmetto

[18]

Foods

   
 

Garlic

[19]

 

Tumeric

[20]

Spices

   
 

Saffron

[21]

 References:


[1] Higami, Y., et al. Apoptosis in the aging process. Cell Tissue Res. 301(1):125-132, 2000.

[2] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0108602

[3] Kagan, T., et al. Coenzyme Q10 can in some circumstances block apoptosis, and this effect is mediated through mitochondria. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences USA. 887:31-47, 1999.

[4] Klaidman, L. K., et al. Nicotinamide as a precursor for NAD+ prevents apoptosis in the mouse brain induced by tertiary-butylhydroperoxide. Neurosci Lett. 206(1):5-8, 1996.

[5] Thatte, U., et al. Modulation of programmed cell death by medicinal plants. Cell Mol Biol. 46:199-214, 2000.

[6] Thatte, U., et al. Modulation of programmed cell death by medicinal plants. Cell Mol Biol. 46:199-214, 2000.

[7] Monograph: fish oil. Alternative Medicine Review. 5(6), 2000.

[8] Mills, J. J., et al. Induction of apoptosis in liver tumors by the monoterpene perillyl alcohol. Cancer Res. 55(5):979-983, 1995.

[9] Mills, J. J., et al. Induction of apoptosis in liver tumors by the monoterpene perillyl alcohol. Cancer Res. 55(5):979-983, 1995.

[10] Pearson, D., et al. The best calcium? Life Enhancement. May 1998:15-17.

[11] Narayanan, B. A., et al. p53/p21(WAF1/CIP1) expression and its possible role in G1 arrest and apoptosis in ellagic acid treated cancer cells. Cancer Letters. 136(2):215-221, 1999.

[12] Jiang, M. C., et al. Curcumin induces apoptosis in immortalized NIH 3T3 and malignant cancer cell lines. Nutrition and Cancer. 26(1):111-120, 1996.

[13] Ahmad, N., et al. Green tea constituent epigallocatechin-3-gallate and induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in human carcinoma cells. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 89(24):1881-1886, 1997.

[14] Siler-Marsiglio, K. I., et al. Pycnogenol and vitamin E inhibit ethanol-induced apoptosis in rat cerebellar granule cells. J Neurobiol. 59(3):261-271, 2004.

[15] Thatte, U., et al. Modulation of programmed cell death by medicinal plants. Cell Mol Biol. 46:199-214, 2000.

[16] Sakagami, H., et al. Apoptosis-inducing activity of vitamin C and vitamin K. Cell Mol Biol. 46:129-143, 2000.

[17] Ahmad, N., et al. Green tea constituent epigallocatechin-3-gallate and induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in human carcinoma cells. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 89(24):1881-1886, 1997.

[18] Iguchi, K., et al. Myristoleic acid, a cytotoxic component in the extract from Serenoa repens, induces apoptosis and necrosis in human prostatic LNCaP cells. Prostate. 47(1):59-65, 2001.

[19] Thatte, U., et al. Modulation of programmed cell death by medicinal plants. Cell Mol Biol. 46:199-214, 2000.

[20] Jiang, M. C., et al. Curcumin induces apoptosis in immortalized NIH 3T3 and malignant cancer cell lines. Nutrition and Cancer. 26(1):111-120, 1996.

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Apoptosis

  1. Clarisa Dombkowski

    Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very useful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info much. I was looking for this particular information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

    1. Editor Post author

      Thank you for the comment! Glad to hear that it was helpful. We will be posting a new article soon on Apoptosis in relation to Cancer.

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