Researchers have made a surprise discovery that could rewrite our understanding of the role programmed cell death plays in embryonic development and congenital birth defects. The team showed that, while programmed cell death — or apoptosis — is essential for healthy development overall, many organs and tissues do not require apoptosis to develop normally. The study also suggested that abnormalities in cell death processes are likely to contribute to some common birth defects in humans, such as spina bifida, heart vessel defects and cleft palate.
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