The average adult human loses between 50 and 70 million cells each day due to apoptosis.
Apoptosis (Greek for “falling off”) is a form of programmed cell death or cell suicide that is important in development or is triggered by injury and disease. Apoptosis activates enzymes known as caspases that disrupt a cell’s DNA, organelles, and cytoskeleton. Caspases also recruit other cells to eat the dying cell’s remains. It has long been believed that apoptosis cannot stop once it has begun.
However, scientists have now shown that, even after commencing this suicidal process, cells can recover through a process dubbed Anastasis.
Anastasis (Greek for “rising to life”) is when dying cells recover from the brink of death and go on to survive and proliferate. In theory, scientists may be able to rescue dying cells by activating Anastasis and preserve certain cell types that are difficult to replace such as heart cells and brain cells. Conversely, suppressing Anastasis in cancer cells that are able to recover from cancer therapies like chemo and radiation, may guarantee complete removal of cancer cells and reduce the chances of recurrence.
If you would like to know more about Anastasis, check out this article in The Scientist: “Cell Death Processes are Reversible.”