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Watson Lecture
Cell Life and Cell Death

ABSTRACT: Cell Life and Cell Death: The cells that constitute the structure of all living beings can live a very long time. Individual brain cells are born during embryonic life and can live for the whole life span of the organism. However, many cells die, sometimes shortly after their birth and sometimes many years later. They die for multiple reasons: to provide appropriate physical shape to elements of the body, to shape the repertoire of the immune system, to rid the body of precancerous cells or because of trauma. How cells die was a mystery until it was discovered that there are genes in cells that control the synthesis of proteins that cause or protect against cell death. We now know that all cells have within themselves one or more triggers which can lead to the death of the cell, effectively suicide triggers. Contemporary research, including some in my own laboratory, has begun to show how these triggers act. They have two modes of action. One is a direct activation of stored enzymes in the cell which chew up the various elements of the cell and even activate a mechanism for mopping up the debris. The second is an indirect mode, less well-understood, which involves the synthesis of new proteins and is more easily regulated in its outcome. In this lecture we will see the complex mechanisms that allow the balance of cell life and cell death to be maintained.

ID: 1998-00024
Baltimore, David (Administrator, Biologist)

Creation Oct. 7, 1998

MEDIUM: Audio Tape; FORMAT: Cassette; QUANTITY: 1

Topics: Administration, Biology, Nobel Prize

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