Cell Death: Life Preserver

With a tiny worm as his guide, H. Robert Horvitz traced a pattern of cell mortality that may be a key to human longevity

Biologists, like the rest of us, don't like to think a lot about death. Whether it occurs in a fruit fly, a lab mouse or a human, it's usually taken as proof that something has either worn out or gone badly wrong. So when a trio of researchers in the 1970s promoted the idea that the normal development of an organism might depend on the routine death and elimination of large numbers of cells--a process they called apoptosis--the concept seemed pretty farfetched. Why would Mother Nature make a lot of perfectly healthy tissue only to throw most of it away?

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