Investigating the Waste in Our Cells: So That We Can Soon Forget About Alzheimer's

By: University of Vienna
VIENNA - Feb. 17, 2022 - PRLog -- A 'waste collection' tidies up our cells. If something does not go according to plan, serious diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's may develop. Molecular biologist Sascha Martens from the University of Vienna together with international partners – researchers of the University of Pennsylvania, Monash University, the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt and the UC Berkeley – investigate the associated process: autophagy. Martens and his team have recently published new results on these mechanisms in Nature Communications and The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

With investigating a tiny mechanism happening every millisecond in every single one of our body cells, an international team of researchers is helping to create the foundations for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. The key process that the scientists investigate in this context is the cellular waste disposal system. After all, also our cells produce 'waste' all the time.

An elaborate molecular surveillance force identifies suspicious substances – broken cell components, coagulated proteins or pathogens – and initiates their removal: They are packed in a 'bag' (a double membrane that enwraps the waste) and brought to the cell's 'recycling bin' (the lysosome). There, the damaged cell components are decomposed and recycled. This self-cleaning process of the cell is called autophagy, which is Greek for 'self-devouring'. "And it is a perfectly running, self-organised machinery," says Sascha Martens, molecular biologist and leader of the sub team at the University of Vienna. He and colleagues want to understand in detail how molecules cooperate in the production of the autophagosomes because this is where diseases, ranging from infections to neurodegenerative diseases, can originate.

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