The companion site to the new book on cell death

Author Archive

Means To An End reviewed in Cell

Eric Baehrecke, Professor of Cancer Biology at University of Massachusetts Medical School, has given Means To An End a fantastic review in Cell. In his review, Baehrecke states that the book “gracefully covers a wide variety of subjects and distills our knowledge of cell death into an accessible text that is enjoyable to read and appropriate for a broad audience.”

Eric goes on to praise Green for covering “more territory than many specialized books by elimination of detail”, concluding that Means To An End is “a must read” and that “students, clinicians, and experts in the field” will all benefit from reading it.


More videos

The list of videos has just been updated. You can now see Doug discuss the discovery of apoptosis, how caspases destroy cells, and the role played by mitochondria in cell death.

Figures for Teaching

You can now download figures from the book as JPEG files here to use as teaching aids.

A free sample

Try before you buy! You can now download a PDF file containing sample chapters from Means To An End.

Martin Raff on Means to an End

Martin Raff, Emeritus Professor in the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology at UCL and one of authors of the classic textbook Molecular Biology of The Cell was kind enough to write the Foreword to Means to an End. Here is some of what he had to say:

Biologists have been relatively slow to recognize and study the degradation processes that operate in cells, compared to the generative processes. The big bang in the cell death field came from Horvitz and colleagues at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s with the genetic identification of the caspases that mediate the apoptotic death program and the Bcl-2 proteins that activate or repress the program. These spectacular findings indicated that apoptosis is a fundamental property of animal cells and launched the subject into the cell biological stratosphere, where it remains to this day.

[The] complexity has created a pressing need for a comprehensive stock taking—a cool, clear, overview of cell death that cuts through the detail in a logical and engaging way. Doug Green has achieved all of this admirably. The writing is remarkably clear and is bolstered by simple, informative figures.

Whether you are a cell death expert or a neophyte, you are likely to find the book informative, clarifying, and enjoyable. If you are a scientist just starting your career in the cell death field, it is unlikely that you will find a better place to identify important unsolved problems to work on. If you are a drug developer, you will find an enlightened discussion of how one might design drugs to either encourage dangerous cells to kill themselves or discourage transiently injured cells from doing so. All you need to know about cell death is covered here, with panache, and all in fewer than 300 pages—a remarkable achievement.

Table of Contents


Foreword, by Martin Raff


1. A Matter of Life and Death
2. Caspases and Their Substrates
3. Caspase Activation and Inhibition
4. The Mitochondrial Pathway of Apoptosis, Part I: MOMP and Beyond
5. The Mitochondrial Pathway of Apoptosis, Part II: The BCL-2 Protein Family
6. The Death Receptor Pathway of Apoptosis
7. Other Caspase Activation Platforms
8. Nonapoptotic Cell Death Pathways
9. The Burial: Clearance and Consequences
10. Cell Death in Development
11. Cell Death and Cancer
12. The Future of Death

Figure Credits
Additional Reading

Douglas Green – the author

Doug Green is the author of the new book on cell death Means to an End: Apoptosis and Other Cell Death Mechanisms. He has been Chair of the Department of Immunology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital since 2005. Prior to that, he was Director of the Division of Cellular Immunology at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, where he worked for 15 years.

Doug has been active in the field of cell death since the late 1980’s, having defined the process of activation-induced apoptosis in T cells. He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the role of the oncogene Myc in driving apoptosis, the ability of BCL-2 proteins to block cell death, the functions of death receptors in cell death and the immune system, and the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis – publishing over 400 papers along the way. His current research focuses on mitochondrial physiology in cell survival and cell death, the functions of the BCL-2 family, and other aspects of cell death.

Doug says he works with many of the best researchers he has ever met. He is also claims to be great friends with some of the smartest people on the planet, whom he credits with helping him appear clever. When he isn’t writing papers and books, he plays the guitar badly and reads widely about many things completely unrelated to cell death.

The teaser

In this video, Doug introduces us to apoptosis and the role of mitochondria as ‘suicide pills’.

Means to an End – the book of death

One million cells in our bodies die every second—they commit suicide by a mechanism known as apoptosis. Apoptosis is essential for survival of the body as a whole and has critical roles in development and the immune system.

In his new book Means to an End, Doug Green provides a clear and comprehensive view of apoptosis and other death mechanisms. He examines the enzymes that perform the execution (caspases) and the molecular machinery that links their activation to signals that cause cell death, emphasizing the importance of BCL-2 proteins and cytochrome c released from mitochondria. Green also outlines the roles of cell death in embryogenesis, neuronal selection, and the development of self-tolerance in the immune system, explains how cell death defends the body against cancer, and traces the evolutionary origins of the apoptosis machinery back over a billion years.

This website represents an ongoing accompaniment to the book. It includes video material that could not be displayed in print, along with figures from the book, links to other websites, and a list of additional reading that Doug will continually update. It also provides a venue for Doug to post new insights into apoptosis and discuss queries with readers.