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apoptosis is programmed cell death i.e it is nnaturally initiated by the body and unlike pathologic cell death (Necrosis), there is no inflammation,
The first role of apoptosis is during fetal development in-vivo. It helps shape organ and carve out the interdigital webs of the fingers and toes, so just imagine if it did'nt occur, we'll have webbed feet like frogs cause the cells between our fingers and toes refused to die and disintegrate.
Both the nervous system and the immune system arise through overproduction of cells followed by the apoptotic death of those that fail to establish functional synaptic connections or productive antigen specificities, so u can say that it gets rid of the damaged and useless cells like a seive.
In adulthood, about 10 billion cells die every day simply to keep balance with the numbers of new cells arising from the body's stem cell populations .
Some drugs such as Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and even cancer drugs work by initiation of apoptosis of cancerous cells, if it did'nt work this way and worked instead by telling immune cells to kill cancer cells, the cancerous cells would die and there would be inflammation making a pretty big mess.
This is just a teenie-weenie summary of why its essential
One study to note: cancer cells reverses apoptosis.
I see the advantage of apoptosis over necrosis, but oftentimes (opposed to sometimes) atrophy is prevalent as a medical condition - meaning that apoptosis is excessive. Is apoptosis triggered even though the cell involved is healthy so that the cycle of the production of new cell resumes? I know that this is not the case because of the activation of ERK. But if it were, it is a waste of energy or that it is just badly regulated post-epigenesis.
Cancer cells are able to evade elimination by the immune system using Fas which causes apoptosis of lumphocyte, but most cancer treatments involve inducing apoptosis of cancer cell. A cell might be healthy but still not needed there at a particular time, this can be seen a lot during embronic and fetal phases of development, an example is in the embryoniv heart, where apoptosis has to occur to allow shunting of blood btw the atriums allowing the heart to send oxygen rich blood to the brain before it is mixed with deoxygenated blood.
When apoptosis occurs without reasonable cause, we have cases of nervous degeneration expressing itself in alzhemiers, parkison's, stroke, myocardial infarction, ischemia etc.