Proliferation is defined as the highly regulated cascade of events responsible for cellular reproduction and maintenance of the relationship between rates of cellular death and division within an expanding population of similar cells. Controlled and regulated proliferation of specific target cells is essential for a broad spectrum of physiological processes including fertilization, prenatal and postnatal development, and tissue maintenance and repair. Numerous biological mechanisms have evolved to ensure proper regulation and progression of these processes. Although these safeguards function to ensure the identification, prevention, and rectification of abnormal progression through the phases of cellular division, unmitigated proliferation can be provoked by instances of spontaneous genomic mutations or those mutations resulting from physical or chemical mutagens. Unrestrained cell proliferation that defies the normal constraints of cellular division is one of the defining characteristics of cancer, in which a culmination of mutations or other aberrations of cellular processes ultimately lead to decreased density-dependent growth inhibition, anchorage-independence, telomerase production, decreased dependence on external growth factors, inhibition of cell cycle control mechanisms, the inhibition of controlled apoptosis of damaged cells, chromosomal abnormalities, along with the modification of other cellular attributes. Increased knowledge of both normal and abnormal proliferative mechanisms is essential to the comprehensive understanding of cancer development as well as the functioning of normal developmental processes.
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