Scientists discover mechanism to potentially reverse cell death

Scientists have discovered how cells can dynamically self-regulate pyroptosis, a type of cell death associated with inflammation.

Published Jan 11, 2022 4:00 AM CST   |   Updated Sat, Feb 5 2022 4:01 AM CST
1 minute & 16 seconds read time

The discovery was published in a recent paper in Nature Communications.

Scientists discover mechanism to potentially reverse cell death 01 |

Researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) studied cells undergoing pyroptosis (cell death usually due to infections, resulting in excess inflammation throughout the body). They found that the process could be halted and controlled when it was previously thought to be irreversible.

This discovery will allow scientists to study diseases associated with malfunctioning cell death processes, such as some cancers. Pyroptosis is a process that utilizes a protein known as gasdermin to open pores in a cell membrane and subsequently destabilize the cell. The researchers engineered their own "optogenetic" gasdermin, which responds to light, allowing them to observe the pyroptosis in action.

"The cell death process plays an important role in the body, in both healthy states and unhealthy ones, but studying pyroptosis, which is a major type of cell death, has been challenging," said Gary Mo from the UIC.

Using fluorescent imaging technology and the optogenetic gasdermin, the researchers found that the pores would close in within tens of seconds under certain conditions, such as with specific calcium ion concentrations. This result provides evidence that pyroptosis is dynamically self-regulated.

"This showed us that this form of cell death is not a one-way ticket. The process is actually programmed with a cancel button, an off-switch. Understanding how to control this process unlocks new avenues for drug discovery, and now we can find drugs that work for both sides-it allows us to think about tuning, either boosting or limiting, this type of cell death in diseases, where we could previously only remove this important process," said Mo.

You can read more from the paper here.


Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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