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What Is Apoptosis Detection?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Apoptosis detection is a laboratory technique researchers can use to identify instances of programmed cell death in a sample. Multicellular organisms use apoptosis to shut cells down at set intervals and in specific conditions. In a lab environment, determining when cells start to experience this process can be important for research purposes, and it is notoriously hard to identify. There are a number of techniques a lab can use for apoptosis detection.

In apoptosis, a cell goes through a series of cellular changes and releases a number of compounds. As the cell dies and breaks apart, the body can start to recycle the components and get rid of waste materials. This process happens in response to a variety of environmental factors as well as when cells reach a certain age. Apoptosis detection can be important for researching the progression of disease, testing treatments, and determining how well the body responds to different kinds of treatment for disease.

One of the most effective ways to look for apoptosis is to evaluate a sample for signs of changes to the DNA. In apoptosis, a cell's DNA will start to fragment and pull apart as part of the dissolution process. Some labs use an apoptosis detection method that checks for DNA changes such as a phenomenon known as laddering, where the structure changes radically as it starts to fall apart. These techniques can detect apoptosis in a sample and provide information about how many cells are affected.

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Other apoptosis detection methods can check for distinctive chemical and biological signatures that appear during cell death. These methods rely on the outcome of research performed to learn more about cell death and flag specific chemicals that may come up during the process. Researchers can test samples with a variety of assays to learn more about the composition of the cells inside and determine if they are dying.

Researchers may want to induce apoptosis with environmental pressures or specific compounds like medications they are evaluating. Apoptosis detection is critical for monitoring how the cells respond. It can also be useful for looking at samples from a living patient with a known illness, to study the way it works in the body and gather information that may be useful for patient treatment, including the development of medications doctors may be able to prescribe in the future.

Numerous scientific suppliers sell apoptosis detection materials. Researchers can order full kits or components to suit their needs.

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indigomoth
Post 2

@pleonasm - Research into apoptosis is also really useful for genetic engineering. If you can program cells to die off at a certain point, it creates a safeguard for new organisms, so they can't overrun the environment if something goes wrong.

So it's important to be able to detect apoptosis in order to make sure that it's happening when you want it to, and only when you want it to.

pleonasm
Post 1

I know some of the research into apoptosis is getting very interesting. They are hoping if they can learn how the mechanism works well enough to be able to switch it on, they'll be able to stop some forms of cancer, or at least slow it down.

Because often cancer is caused by, or at least aggravated by cells that don't die when they should, so they form excess, or a tumor.

They can also pass on whatever damage they have that's stopping them from working properly to other cells, which causes a vicious circle.

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