diseases characterized by defective cell
death (left) and excessive cell death
The introduction of C.
elegans as a novel experimental model system,
the characterization of its invariant cell lineage,
and the possibility to link this to genetic analysis
have proven valuable for many research disciplines.
For example, this is true for developmental biology
and for analysis of the functions of signalling
pathways in multicellular organisms.
Research on programmed cell
death is intense. Knowledge in this field has helped
us to understand the mechanisms by which some viruses
and bacteria invade and manipulate our cells.
Some diseases, like cancer and
certain autoimmune conditions, are characterized by a
reduction in cell death, leading to the survival of
cells normally destined to die. Many treatment
strategies against cancer are based on stimulation of
the cellular "suicide programme". This is an
interesting and challenging task to further explore
in order to reach a refined manner to induce cell
death in cancer cells.
We also know that in AIDS,
neurodegenerative diseases, stroke and myocardial
infarction, cells are lost as a result of excessive
cell death. For instance, current research suggests
that it is possible to reduce the damage caused by
myocardial infarction and stroke by using drugs
restraining programmed cell death.