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Sci Am. 2008 May;298(5):74-81.

How cells clean house.

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Molecular genetics and Microbiology Department, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, USA.


Inside the cytoplasm of a living cell, organelles called autophagosomes continually engulf bits of cytoplasm, along with damaged cell parts and invading bacteria and viruses. The "sweepings" are carried to digestive organelles for breakup and recycling. The process is called autophagy. Cell biologists are learning about autophagy in great detail by tracing the protein signals that drive and control the process. A fuller understanding of autophagy is opening up new options for treating cancer, infectious disease, immune disorders and dementia, and it may one day even help to slow down aging.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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