Apoptotic cell clearance

Research lead: Dr Ivan Poon
Billions of cells undergo apoptosis daily as part of homeostasis in the adult human. It is crucial that free apoptotic cells are readily cleared as the accumulation of apoptotic cells has been linked to numerous disease states such as inflammation, autoimmunity, cancer and infection. Thus, understanding the molecular basis of apoptotic cell removal will provide new avenues for therapeutic intervention

Prior to the recruitment and recognition by phagocytes, apoptotic cells often undergo a number of distinct morphologic changes. These changes in turn allow an apoptotic cell to be efficiently cleared by phagocytes. For instance, apoptotic cells can disassemble into discrete subcellular membrane-bound particles (1-5 μm) known as apoptotic bodies. The generation of these 'bite-size' apoptotic bodies can facilitate their uptake and processing by phagocytes. However, the precise molecular machinery that control the quantity and quality of apoptotic bodies is not well-defined. We propose that regulated apoptotic bodies formation during cell death is essential for the prompt removal of apoptotic cells. Importantly, modulating the mechanism of apoptotic bodies formation could alter the consequence of corpses clearance in health and disease (Atkin-Smith et al., 2015, Poon et al., 2014).