There’s a difference between necrosis vs apoptosis, but both can contribute to aging. Find out how below.
In this article:
- What Is Necrosis?
- What Are the Different Types of Necrosis?
- How Do You Treat Necrosis?
- What Is Apoptosis?
- Necrosis vs. Apoptosis: What’s the Difference?
- How Can They Affect Aging?
Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Necrosis, Apoptosis, and Aging
What Is Necrosis?
Necrosis happens when cells die unnaturally or prematurely. There are many possible causes of necrosis, including:
- Hypoxia – the lack of oxygen in cells or tissues
- Infection or toxins – can kill cells before they’re scheduled to die
- Mechanical injury – physical damage which results in the cellular breakdown
- Extreme environmental factors – exposure to extreme heat, cold, or even electricity
Necrotic cells usually lose the integrity of their cell membranes so they end up releasing enzymes and other products in the extracellular space.
What Are the Different Types of Necrosis?
You can categorize necrosis by its cause, location, and duration. There are six main types of necrosis:
- Liquefactive – An infection can activate digestive enzymes which ends up liquifying and dissolving tissue.
- Coagulative – A mechanical injury can damage the digestive enzymes of cells which causes the surrounding cells to release more digestive enzymes. This usually forms gel-like substances on dead tissues.
- Caseous – Tuberculosis or fungi infection can cause dead tissue cells to form a granuloma.
- Fibrinoid – Blood-related or vascular damage can cause the deposit of fibrin in blood vessels. Because this happens in the blood, it may be difficult to diagnose.
- Fat – When necrotic cells are in fatty areas, enzymes break down the fat and release fatty acids which leads to white blotches on the skin. While this usually happens when someone has pancreatitis, it can also commonly appear in breast tissue.
- Gangrene – This is a special type of coagulative or liquefactive necrosis that happens in the extremities (like the feet or hands). When this happens, skin blackens and begins to decay.
When necrosis isn’t treated, dead tissue can build up and cause even more damage. So if you suspect any kind of necrosis, it’s important to see a healthcare professional right away.
How Do You Treat Necrosis?
Once cells enter into necrosis, there’s no turning back. So the first step in treating this is removing all of the necrotic tissue.
Otherwise, keeping the dead tissue may cause necrosis to spread to more areas. In most cases, dead cells release enzymes that end up killing other healthy cells.
It may require removing some skin tissue or, in more serious cases, amputation of limbs. For the treatment to be successful, it’s not enough to remove dead tissue, but doctors also need to eliminate the source of the necrosis.
What Is Apoptosis?
Just like necrosis, apoptosis also involves the death of cells. Specifically, it refers to programmed or organized cellular death.
It’s a natural function that allows our body to maintain a healthy number of cells and to remove any unnecessary cell or tissue structures. For instance, apoptosis is responsible for removing tissues that initially bind fingers and toes together.
In apoptosis, cells don’t usually lose the integrity of their membranes. Instead, it breaks down cells into functional apoptotic bodies.
Necrosis vs. Apoptosis: What’s the Difference?
Necrosis and apoptosis both result in a form of cellular death. But in necrosis, cellular death is unplanned and is usually detrimental to health.
In general, apoptosis serves an evolutionary purpose and usually allows the body to function more efficiently.
Necrosis is caused by external factors. On the other hand, apoptosis is usually triggered by changes in cellular structure.
How Can They Affect Aging?
Necrosis and apoptosis can both impact aging and senescence. With necrosis, it’s pretty straight forward—when necrosis sets it, it causes cellular death.
If you don’t treat it, it can spread to other areas causing further damage to other tissues. This speeds up aging, and, in some cases, can also be fatal.
When it comes to apoptosis, it’s not as simple. Both increase and decrease in apoptosis can speed up aging.
An increase in apoptosis during aging leads to:
- A decline in the immune system
- Loss of skeletal muscle
- A decrease in heart cells
- Neurodegenerative diseases
On the other hand, there are certain cell types that can also become more resistant to apoptosis as you age. So, it fails to kill certain cells on schedule.
These cells can contribute to age-related diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Researchers believe that apoptosis malfunctions such as these are due to age-related mitochondrial defects.
Age-related changes due to necrosis are sometimes unavoidable, but there may be something you can do about apoptosis. If you’re interested in learning more about this, talk to an integrative health specialist today!
What are your thoughts on necrosis, apoptosis, and aging? Share them with us in the comments section below.