Delayed

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Better safe than sorry. Leaving - whatever or whoever it may be - is always better when executed with some forethought and organisation. Cells sometimes behave similarly. Many are the occasions when our bodies decide to get rid of cells for the sake of health and equilibrium. The notion is easy to grasp when you consider cells that have either aged or been infected; our system is better off without them. Organisms have several ways of removing cells or, in other words, of programming cell death. Sometimes, though, an ongoing programme moves too fast and, rather like writing a will, the cell needs more time to arrange a few important things before its passing. So, a temporary reanimation mechanism kicks in. Enzymes known as caspases are frequently involved in programmed cell death. One particular caspase however, caspase-7, is actually engaged in repairing self-inflicted holes in a cell's membrane so that the cell has time to prepare a cleaner exit, that is to say without being detrimental to the environment.

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