Scientists at Monash University (Australia) have identified a key process in all human cells that contributes to aging, as well as the development of age-related diseases such as cancer or neurodegenerative disorders. This is reported in a press release on MedicalXpress.
Researchers studied autophagy, in which cells recognize, absorb and destroy defective proteins, fragments of cell membranes, parts of viruses or bacteria. Captured “garbage” is used by the cell to obtain energy and substances necessary for its vital activity. In the absence of effective autophagy, cells have overloaded their own waste, which can cause various diseases throughout the body, including diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s syndrome.
Recognition and binding of “garbage” occurs with the help of specific protein receptors, after which it is captured by an insulating membrane and sent to lysosomes, where it is destroyed. It was believed that contacting receptors with the bodies to be captured activates the membrane. However, scientists have found that locking receptors from binding to membranes does not stop the process. Instead, the membranes themselves recruit receptors so that autophagy proceeds more efficiently. Failures occurring at this stage, are the real cause of disease.
Currently, drugs are being developed that should regulate receptors that work in a completely different way than experts had thought before. It is necessary to develop new tools that take into account the mechanism found, scientists conclude.