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LIFE SCIENCE TECHNOLOGIES: Understanding Apoptosis

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Science  03 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6009, pp. 1420
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6009.1420


Apoptosis is a simple concept with complex underpinnings--damaged cells are prompted to self-destruct through a series of molecular events, like dominos toppling over one by one. Unraveling the mechanisms underlying apoptosis is akin to determining the role each individual domino plays in a falling cascade--one strategically placed tile can trigger a cascade of several lines, and one misplaced tile can mean a dead end in the chain reaction. Techniques that pick apart this intricate process have been rapidly advancing, now offering more than the ability to look at a single event with high throughput, multiplexing capabilities, and in vivo imaging. Future technologies aim to help scientists visualize human cellular processes in vivo to aid researchers in tailoring and monitoring treatment for a variety of diseases, especially cancer.