You have to die to live ... a few words about autophagy

An adult person consists of over a hundred trillion cells. Each cell is an individual that is vibrant with its own life. From a biochemical point of view, it is a factory of processes and reactions, the correct course of which allows maintaining the biological balance of the body.
Each of the body's cells, working with 100% efficiency, becomes damaged after some time, or simply physiologically aging. Programmed Cell Death (PCD) eliminates redundant or damaged cells. It is a process strictly regulated by genetic factors. Classification based on morphological criteria includes three types of PCD: genetically programmed cell suicide - apoptosis, necrosis or necrosis, and autophagy, which is little known to anyone.
Autophagy is a very important biological process, the physiologically old and conservative mechanism of which is the elimination of individual worn or damaged parts of the cell without having to kill it. Under critical conditions, the area of ​​the cytoplasm to be removed is covered with a double membrane called a phagophore, which, as the process progresses, closes itself into a vesicle of autophagosome. In the next stage, lysosomes responsible for digesting the contents enclosed in the vesicle join. Mitochondria, elements of the endoplasmic reticulum or other elements of the cell, degraded in this way, are broken down into simple organic compounds which, after the end of autophagy, can still be used by the cell or stored in the vacuole. Autophagy is very often also called cellular recycling.

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What is autophagy

this process plays an important role in physiological states including implantation of the embryo in the uterus in mammals, the perinatal period in the newborn, stress and aging. Autophagy has been shown to affect both eukaryotic and unicellular organisms, and was originally an adaptive mechanism in the absence of food. It is obvious that in such a situation there is a shift in the quantitative ratios of some organelles in favor of others.
Research conducted by scientists over the last few years has confirmed the importance of autophagy as an immune phenomenon. This process plays a very important role in bacterial (Streptococcus pyogenes, Salmonella enterica, Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and parasitic (Toxoplasma gondii) infections, efficiently fighting infection in mammals. It has also been proven that autophagy also activates and increases acquired immunity, enabling better presentation of viral and cancer antigens to T immune cells. This can be of great importance in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells by eliminating from the cell mutated or damaged fragments created during mutagenesis.
There is also the other side of the coin ... Autophagy can allow tumor cells that have become depleted of nutrients to develop, or it can act as a protective barrier against the effects of some chemotherapy drugs. Such research results have been obtained in experiments on breast cancer in women, where the accumulation of large amounts of acidic vesicular organelles (AVO) by the neoplastic cells was observed. AVO is produced by autophagy and is an effective form of cancer cell defense against radiation. In this case, blocking the autophagy process may be of key importance in the patient's oncological treatment.
That is why it is very important to continue research on this process and learn about all the genetic factors that take part in it. Perhaps in the future it will be possible to use therapy by stimulating autophagy in infectious or neoplastic diseases.

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.