Apoptosis in Critical Illness: A Primer for the Intensivist

  • Z. Malam
  • J. C. Marshall
Conference paper


The complexities of the cell cycle have occupied a prominent place in the history of cellular biology. Recognition of the process of mitosis dates back over a century, when Fol, Butschli, and Strasburger identified a network of intracellular points and lines, then called the karyokinetic figure, and today known as the mitotic apparatus. This discovery, dating to 1873, laid the foundation for the discovery of chromosomes and, later, the fundamental biologic processes of mitosis and meiosis [1]. But, while cellular growth and proliferation were understood to be essential to the emergence of multicellular organisms, the corollary — that controlled cell death must be part of this calculus of cellular homeostasis — was not appreciated until quite recently. Although cell death was first described in 1859 by Virchow, it took more than a century to appreciate the importance of programmed cell death as a physiological process that eliminated unwanted cells [2]. The term ‘apoptosis’ was coined in 1972 by Kerr, Wyllie, and Currie to describe a distinct type of cell death characterized by the degradation of cellular constituents into membrane-bound apoptotic bodies [3]. Since then, recognition of the importance of apoptosis in health and disease, and an understanding of its cellular mechanisms, has increased exponentially.


Critical Illness Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome Neutrophil Apoptosis Epithelial Cell Apoptosis Death Effector Domain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Z. Malam
    • 1
  • J. C. Marshall
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Critical Care Room 4-007, Bond WingSt. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada

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