How cells dispose of waste
Autophagy - the garbage disposal in the body
How does the garbage collection work in our cells?
If the disposal system in our cells recognizes that there is a defect, that certain cell components are getting out of hand or that they are too old, it becomes active. It then collects, bundles, and packages the cellular waste. The garbage package is then transported into the lysosomes. These cell organelles are, so to speak, our cells' waste recycling plant. There the waste is broken down into its basic building blocks by various enzymes. The components that can still be used are reused, recycled. Autophagy comes from the Greek. Literally translated, it means "self-eating".
What if the garbage collection goes on strike?
Autophagy or autophagocytosis serves to protect our cells. It prevents cellular waste from building up for too long. If the autophagy is slowed down or, in the worst case, stopped completely, serious diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer's can develop. The autophagy must not get out of whack. It also becomes dangerous when healthy structures are incorrectly identified as garbage.
What could that mean in practice?
Autophagy is a vital function in our body and plays a central role. If it no longer functions properly, tumors can proliferate and aging processes in the body accelerate. The so-called plaques, which are deposited in the brain of an Alzheimer's patient, also arise because, among other things, the autophagy process no longer works properly. Research into autophagy is still in its infancy. But if researchers fully understand and decipher the mechanisms of autophagy, treatment options could pave the way.
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