The recent discovery may aid in the fight against cancer, researchers say:
Apoptosis is the most common way cells commit suicide, and this process is critical in maintaining an organism’s wellbeing. Living things need a way to terminate cells when they are badly injured or their DNA is damaged. Apoptosis is also part of natural turnover, especially in blood cells, skin cells and the lining of the gut.
“Before our work, people really thought that apoptosis was an all-or-nothing decision,” said Montell, Duggan Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. “You either committed to suicide and went through with it, or you didn’t.”
Scientists considered the activation of an enzyme appropriately called “executioner caspase” to be the point of no return. This enzyme essentially slices and dices many of the cell’s proteins. But it turns out apoptosis is more nuanced than previously known, and sometimes cells survive the executioner caspase via another process — anastasis. …
The involvement of these two proteins in anastasis indicates that it is probably a very ancient process. “Not just the phenomenon of cells recovering from the brink of death, but even the mechanism — the molecules involved — are so deeply conserved in evolution that flies and mice are using the same molecules,” Montell said.UCal Santa Barbara, “Novel insights on cellular suicide could provide new avenues for cancer therapies” at ScienceDaily
Isn’t that remarkable? The phenomenon that enables cells to avoid committing suicide when “ordered” to do so (apoptosis) is so old that it goes back to the common ancestor of flies and mice. How much time was there for such a complex system to evolve purely randomly, as in a Darwinian scheme?