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Patterns of cell death.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Cell death takes two distinct forms, necrosis and apoptosis. Necrosis is a degenerative phenomenon that follows irreversible injury. Apoptosis, in contrast, appears to be an active process requiring protein synthesis for its execution; it is implicated in physiological regulation of tissue size, and, where it occurs pathologically, a homeostatic role for the death is often evident. Morphologically, apoptosis involves condensation of the nuclear chromatin and cytoplasm, fragmentation of the nucleus, and budding of the whole cell to produce membrane-bounded bodies in which organelles are initially intact. These bodies are disposed of by adjacent cells without inflammation. Biochemically, there is distinctive internucleosome cleavage of DNA in apoptosis, which is quite different from the random DNA degradation observed in necrosis.

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