Key Note Lecture: Toward a Mechanistic Taxonomy for Cell Death Programs

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Background and Purpose—

Programmed cell death (pcd) plays a critical role in the development of the nervous system, as well as in its response to insult. Both anti-pcd and pro-pcd modulators play prominent roles in development and disease, including ischemic cerebrovascular disease. The purpose of this article is therefore to review the basics of programmed cell death.


There have been over 100 000 scientific and clinical publications on the topic of programmed cell death and its most well known form, apoptosis. The principles emerging from these studies are reviewed here.


Programmed cell death is a form of cell death in which the cell plays an active role in its own demise. Apoptosis is the most well-defined form of pcd, but recent studies have begun to characterize an alternative program, autophagic cell death. In addition, there appear to be programmatic cell deaths that do not fit the criteria for either apoptosis or autophagic cell death, arguing that additional programs may also be available to cells.


Constructing a mechanistic taxonomy of all forms of pcd—based on inhibitors, activators, and identified biochemical pathways involved in each form of pcd—should offer new insight into cell deaths associated with cerebrovascular disease and other diseases, and ultimately offer new therapeutic approaches.

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