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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Minerva Medica 2004 April;95(2):159-64

language: English

''Falling leaves'': a survey of the history of apoptosis

Formigli L., A. Conti A., Lippi D.


Cell death has long been defined using morphological criteria. A first important concept, ''necrosis'', was early identified by Areteo from Cappadocia and by Galen. The term apoptosis was introduced by Kerr in 1972 to indicate a particular form of death in which cells commit suicide by chopping themselves into membrane-bounded apoptotic bodies. Apoptosis is distinguished from necrosis, or accidental cell death, which is characterized by nuclear autolysis and cell disintegration. The aim of this study was an evaluation of the concepts of apoptosis and necrosis, starting from the first definition of cell death by Rudolph Virchow in 1859. In recent years substantial progress has been made in the understanding of apoptotic and necrotic cell death. In particular, cell death researchers have evolved a paradigm change, from one in which apoptosis and necrosis were considered distinct forms of cell demise, to one in which the 2 cell deaths share common features, as an integral part of a same cell death process. Since pure apoptosis and necrosis are only extremes in a continuum spectrum of aponecrotic response, a mixture of features associated with both apoptosis and necrosis represents the more typical tissue and cell response to damaging stimuli.

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