Yale School of Medicine researchers have published their studies on two groups of proteins known to prompt cell death.
Caspases can cause apoptosis – cell 'suicide' – which occurs in stroke, heart attacks and Alzheimer's disease amongst other medical problems.
One of the report's authors, Saquib Lakhani, said that the results of the study were "relevant to the wide variety of health and disease processes that rely on apoptosis".
The study focused on caspase 3 and caspase 7 levels in mice and those lacking the protein died of heart problems on the first day.
Other researchers are looking at apoptosis and how to treat it, with Pfizer sending its Idun drug through clinical trials.
Full results of the research are published in Science magazine.
Research in the report says that the two proteins played an important role in controlling energy production during apoptosis.