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Good Thing it Happens

What is Apoptosis?

Natural Cell Suicide


Ancient wisdom states there is a time to be born and a time to die. That’s just as true for our cells as it is for ourselves.

While focus is often placed on the first half of this truth — on “birth” — it’s becoming clear that the natural death of cells may be just as important. Every day, in every normal adult human, billions of cells literally commit suicide to make room for other new, healthy cells. This happens in our dogs, too.

This normal, natural, and critical body process is called “apoptosis.” Apoptosis is encoded in each cell’s DNA.

When a cell triggers its own apoptosis genes, those genes break the cell down completely, so the body can safely recycle or eliminate the remaining particles. It doesn’t hurt, because there are no side effects and very little (if any) inflammation with apoptosis. Apoptosis is as natural as breathing, and as necessary to health. After all, we can’t make room for healthy new cells without apoptosis.


Apoptosis is as natural as breathing, and as necessary to health.


Healthy, normal apoptosis genes don’t turn on randomly. There’s always a reason. Sometimes the cells committing suicide have reached the end of their natural lifespan and are just dying a natural death. Other times, cells trigger their “suicide genes” after they suffer derangement or irreparable damage.

The individual images on this page were extracted from a time-lapse microscopy video showing apoptosis of DU145 prostate cancer cells. To induce apoptosis the cells where treated with etoposide. The 61 hour time-lapse was created using the HoloMonitor M3 from Phase Holographic Imaging AB. The author Egelberg posted this image on the Wikipedia entry for Apoptosis and this is used with a Creative Commons License.

Watch Portrayals of Apoptosis

Natural cell suicide is as incredible as it sounds, but it can also be beautiful.

Ancient Concept, Modern Understanding: 
Nobel Prize-Winning Insights into the Natural Life and Death of Cells


Apoptosis is mentioned in textbooks, and many of us encountered the word in high school biology class, if only for five minutes. It was first described well over a century ago. But it took until 2002 for us to understand its importance. That’s when the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, given to those who have made the most important discovery in the field, was awarded to three researchers who study apoptosis.


The winners – Sydney Brenner, H. Robert Horvitz, and John E. Sulston – were jointly awarded “for their discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.”

Their discoveries were simple, but had a huge impact on scientific inquiry. Here are some important ones:

  • For every cell that is born, another must die to keep the tissues balanced with the right number of cells.
  • Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is as important to health as cell birth (mitosis)
  • Specific genes regulate organ development and apoptosis.
  • These genes “sculpt” organs in the body by turning cell death “on” and “off.”
  • There are apoptosis genes in species of all sizes and complexity. Simple worms like C. elegans have apoptosis genes, and so do humans—and of course, dogs.

In other words, apoptosis genes are critical. They are what makes normal life, development, and death possible, for every cell in every species Brenner, Horvitz and Sulston studied. Normal apoptosis genes monitor each cell for balance and health. They only turn “on” apoptosis – natural cell suicide – if it’s needed. Otherwise, they stay “off.” They are sort of like the automatic braking system (ABS) in your car. The ABS doesn’t kick in unless it is needed. Similarly, apoptosis genes only turn “on” when they’re needed. Otherwise, in a healthy cell, they simply monitor in the background.

Balance is Sought Throughout the Natural Life Cycle

As Nobel Laureates Drs. Brenner, Horvitz, and Sulston made clear: the body uses apoptosis to maintain balance from womb to tomb. When apoptosis is out of balance, so is health.

These new insights, highlighted by 2002’s Nobel Prize, inspired scientists all over the planet to look more closely at apoptosis and how it affects health. In the years since, apoptosis has become one of the hottest, most cutting-edge areas of science. We all owe Drs. Brenner, Horvitz, and Sulston a debt of gratitude.


"Nature has already invented the wheel. Our only job is to find it.” 
--Demian Dressler, DVM, Chief Medical Officer


A Natural End To Life

Hiding in Plain Sight


At Functional Nutriments, we constantly return to the natural world for inspiration and understanding. That’s because while science is often conducted in sterile labs, the most illuminating insights come from nature itself.

This has always been true. Sir Isaac Newton came up with his theory of gravity by watching apples falling from trees. At the time, his theory was radical and flew in the face of accepted knowledge. Today, it’s basic science. Think of apoptosis the next time you witness a natural end to life, whether it’s in a petal wilting, a leaf turning color, or – like Newton saw – an apple falling.

Dietary Apoptogens Can Support Normal Apoptosis

At Functional Nutriments, our nutraceuticals are designed to help support normal, natural cell turnover by leveraging dietary apoptogens. These hyper-concentrated plant extracts – some of which are difficult to find – can help apoptosis genes “wake up,” and regulate cells in their normal, healthy fashion.

Flowering Milk thistle

Nutraceutical (noo-tru’-soo-ti-kul): A nutrient or food believed to have health-promoting properties.

Whether you are giving your pup the super-charged apoptogen formula found in Apocaps® CX or Apocaps® CXE or the lower-dose, daily version found in Nutrocept® and EverPup®, you can be sure your dog is getting the best – and only – apoptogen formulas available today. All of our products are also made with the special proprietary Biovadex™ formulation to help boost apoptogen levels in the bloodstream.

Hard to Pronounce...

Because It's Greek

Funny story: apoptosis was known as “controlled cell deletion” over one hundred years before a paper on this natural body process was published in the British Journal of Cancer in 1972. The authors thought they needed a more impressive name for cell suicide, something to complement the word “mitosis,” which refers to cell birth. They turned to a Greek language professor for ideas.

He suggested “apoptosis,” which translates to “falling off,” or “falling away,” and is used to describe autumn leaves falling from the branch, or flower petals drifting to earth.

In Greek, the second “p” in apoptosis is silent, so the pronunciation is “ay-paw-TOEsis.” More recently, some people have pronounced it as an English word: “ay-POP-toe-sis.”

Whichever way you pronounce it, apoptosis is the perfect word to describe a genetically-programmed death that occurs naturally in cells at the end of life, or in cells which have sustained damage or become deranged.

You Can't See It, But The Market Sure Does.

Today, we need powerful microscopes to see apoptosis in action, but we predict that “apoptosis” will one day be a household word, just as “germs,” “DNA,” and “gravity” are.


Today there are over 370 identified drugs in development aimed at apoptosis gene targets, including 27 radiosensitizers and chemosensitizers and 65 anti-inflammatories. In fact, there’s been an explosion in the apoptosis market. The $606 million market in 2008 has been growing exponentially and reached $12 billion in 2013. It will likely reach $23 billion by 2020!

That’s great for big pharma, and we’re excited to see what they come up with. But in the meantime, we here at Functional Nutriments are going to continue providing safe, beneficial supplements using natural (not synthetic) dietary apoptogens – just like we have since 2008.

Dog with Money 1

National Institute of Health Grant

The science behind Apocaps® has been vetted by the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC. In 2010, Functional Nutriments was awarded a grant in the amount of a quarter million dollars to “Develop Cancer Chemosensitizer & Radiosensitizer Using Bioavailable Dietary Apoptogens.”

This exciting development early in our company’s history forced us to make an important decision: did we want to stay on the nutraceutical path, or become a pharmaceutical company and develop synthetic versions of our dietary apoptogens?

After much soul-searching, we committed to the nutraceutical version, and we’re glad we did – even if it meant giving up that prestigious and lucrative grant.

Dog with Money 1