What Is Serum Starvation & Apoptosis?


Many living cells are programmed to die at a certain point in their lifespan. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is preset by biology and genetics, but some scientists say it can be affected by a treatment called serum starvation


  • The Reproductive and Cardiovascular Disease Research Group says apoptosis is a normal process where cells in a multicellular organism die in a regulated fashion. It's different from necrosis, the unplanned and unhealthy death of cells.

Serum Starvation

  • MedicineNet.com says serum is defined as the clear part of blood, or other similar fluids. Serum can be used to nourish cells in labs; serum starvation means restricting the supply and studying the effect on cells.

Starvation and Apoptosis

  • The German "Radiotherapy and Cancer" journal found that in some lines of tumorous cells, a serum-starvation diet sped up apoptosis. Mutant strains of the same cells underwent necrosis.

New Pathways

  • The Vienna Institute of Cancer Research found that serum starvation could cause apoptosis even when the normal biochemical trigger, caspase-9, wasn't available.


  • The John Hopkins Oncology Center says cancer cells often override the normal processes of apoptosis. One research paper concluded that restoring normal apoptosis could make cancer treatment more effective.


  • Photo Credit new cells 6 image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com
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