School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Cytotoxin

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  • Apoptosis: self-destruction of a cell.
  • Cytotoxins: chemicals that kill cells.
  • Lysis: cell death because of damaged membranes.

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Cytotoxins

Cytotoxin gunCytotoxins are the chemical weapons that Killer T-cells use to destroy infected cells. Viruses take over healthy cells and trick them into making many more viruses.  When those viruses get out, they can infect even more healthy cells.  By killing infected cells before these viruses get out, cytotoxins protect your healthy cells.

Different kinds of cytotoxins work in different ways. Some cytotoxins make holes in the cell membrane, so the inside of the cell is not protected from the outside.  Without a full membrane, the cell dies.  Cell death because of this kind of break in the cell membrane is called lysis.

apoptosis

Other cytotoxins turn on a program in the cell that causes it to self-destruct. This is called apoptosis. The dark spots in the picture are cells that have been destroyed by apoptosis. Macrophages, the first member of the body's clean up crew, remove these dead cells. 

 

 

 

 

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book icon” title=“book icon Viral Attack

Story Behind the Scenes

 

For Teachers

Download comic as PDF packet
or
Get a MagCloud version for print or iPad

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.