Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction syndrome caused by dysregulated host response to infection that leads to uncontrolled inflammatory response followed by immunosuppression. However, despite the high mortality rate, no specific treatment modality or drugs with high efficacy is available for sepsis to date. Although improved treatment strategies have increased the survival rate during the initial state of excessive inflammatory response, recent trends in sepsis show that mortality occurs at a period of continuous immunosuppressive state in which patients succumb to secondary infections within a few weeks or months due to post-sepsis "immune paralysis." Immune cell alteration induced by uncontrolled apoptosis has been considered a major cause of significant immunosuppression. Particularly, apoptosis of lymphocytes, including innate immune cells and adaptive immune cells, is associated with a higher risk of secondary infections and poor outcomes. Multiple postmortem studies have confirmed that sepsis-induced immune cell apoptosis occurs in all age groups, including neonates, pediatric, and adult patients, and it is considered to be a primary contributing factor to the immunosuppressive pathophysiology of sepsis. Therapeutic perspectives targeting apoptosis through various strategies could improve survival in sepsis. In this review article, we will focus on describing the major apoptosis process of immune cells with respect to physiologic and molecular mechanisms. Further, advances in apoptosis-targeted treatment modalities for sepsis will also be discussed.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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