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Scientists uncover more details on how cells dispose of waste

By Ryan Maass
Scientists uncover more details on how cells dispose of waste
Developing a better understanding of autophagy may help improving treatments for cancer and Alzheimer's disease, scientists say. Photo by PublicDomainPictures.net

VIENNA, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Vienna have discovered new details about how cells dispose of waste products in a new study.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Cell, builds on previous scholarship by Yoshinori Ohsumi, which identified autophagy as the process by which cells rid themselves of viruses, bacteria and damaged material. According to the research team's new findings, the key protein utilized in the process known as Atg1 is regulated in both space and time.

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Scientists concluded the activation of Atg1 depends on the presence of both the protein and the waste at a precise location. The research team demonstrated autophagy begins only when this specific requirement is met by removing the two coordinators that bring the elements to the same spot.

"In cells without these coordinators, we were able to promote waste removal by autophagy when Atg1 was artificially forced to meet the waste," study author Daniel Papinski explained in a press release. "This shows that the concurrence of Atg1 and waste at the right place is a key regulatory step to activate autophagy."

Researchers went on to say their findings may be beneficial for developing better treatments for a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer's disease or cancer.

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"This work gave us important insight into the molecular events regulating autophagy in space and time. Only if we understand the molecular details, we will be able to design medication exclusively targeting autophagy in these diseases," Claudine Kraft said.

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