The Apoptosis Code and Medical Benefits
A discussion of apoptosis and how application of its genetic code in medical research and experimentation can provide benefits
How does the discovery of the genetic code of apoptosis benefit medicine?
Apoptosis is a tightly regulated, gene-directed programme of cell death, usually occurring during development and ageing, and as a homeostatic mechanism to maintain normal cell populations in tissues (Yaacoub et al., 2016). Inappropriate apoptosis is a factor in the pathogenesis of many human diseases. Insufficient apoptosis may cause autoimmune diseases or cancers; enhanced apoptosis, however, can cause neurodegenerative disease, and immunodeficiency (Zangemeister-Wittke and Simon, 2001; Hassan et al., 2014).
The molecular mechanisms governing apoptosis are fairly well understood; however apoptosis remains the focus of continued research (Elmore, 2007). The discovery and subsequent sequencing of key pro-apoptotic genes, such as the p53 tumour suppressor gene, has given new insights into disease processes, influencing therapeutic strategies (Zhivotovsky and Orrenius, 2010). An enhanced understanding of the key genes regulating apoptosis has led to many benefits to medicine: these include a new generation of anti-cancer drugs in clinical trials, and innovative new ‘suicide gene’ therapies (Karjoo et al., 2016). Such potential therapies include work by Senzer et al., (2013), who created a liposomal p53 nanocomplex to induce apoptosis in advanced solid malignant tumours. A recent study by Lv et al., (2016) has demonstrated the successful use of the IL-24 gene to induce apoptosis in human lung cancer cells. It is clear that deeper insight into apoptosis is facilitating exciting new biological treatments, representing a revolution in the treatment of disease (particularly targeted cancer therapies) (Lv et al., 2016).
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