dr hab. Magdalena Rost-Roszkowska
Autophagy is still a much discussed subject in contemporary biological and medical sciences. It would seem that this process is already well known, that we know how it happens, what its types are, and what its role is (survival or death). However, in the world literature one can find constantly appearing data on the mechanisms inducing this process in cells, or the mechanisms controlling each of its stages. Research is currently being carried out on the origin of the so-called phagophore, the latest reports on the participation of the outer mitochondrial membrane in the formation of this structure come from research conducted over the last two years. The types of so-called selective autophagy are analyzed, when specific cell organelles are degraded, e.g. mitophagy - mitochondrial degradation; peroxyphagia - peroxisomes, reticulophagy - endoplasmic reticulum, or nucleophagy - fragments of cell nuclei. There is also ongoing research on the entire group of Atg proteins, which play a fundamental role in the course of autophagy. The latter, as it turns out, also take part in the so-called Cvt (cytoplasm to vacuole targeting pathway) process currently being studied in yeast. In the course of their research, scientists while analyzing one of the issues related to autophagy, encounter further ambiguities and questions that they try to answer.
Autophagy - enemy or friend?
Research on autophagy is carried out on a variety of eukaryotic organisms, but due to the fact that it is a conservative process, data from analyzes of invertebrate organisms, with simpler structure, easier to obtain and easier to breed, can be translated into chordates, including human. The numerous studies conducted on the types of selective autophagy, and therefore on specific cell organelles, can be used to the best by modern medicine. It is quite important to understand the exact relationship between autophagy and another type of programmed cell death - apoptosis. Currently, research on the induction of cell death in neoplastic cells is quite extensive, and it is important that the autophagy process does not allow these cells to survive, but directs them to the path of cell death. It is also known that autophagy increases in many diseases of the nervous system and heart disease. Inducing or inhibiting autophagy, depending on whether the process should be blocked or activated, will certainly be used not only in the fight against cancer, but also in numerous diseases, e.g. of the nervous, circulatory and digestive systems, as well as in the treatment of infertility.