New Cell Death Mechanism Discovered

New research at King’s College London, UK has shown how a dysfunction in the brains ‘self-digestion- system leads to cell death in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The first author of the study is Dr Olga Baron from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and neuroscience at King’s College London, and the senior and corresponding author is Dr Manolis Fanto, also from the same institute.

In a process called autophagy, brain cells can break down the parts that aren’t useful, recycle them and use them to create new brain cells. However, when this process cannot occur properly, neurodegenerative diseases occur.

Using mice for an experiment, it was revealed that in their autophagy process, a ‘progressive stall’ (“the brain gets ‘confused’ and tries to maintain homeostasis through alternative pathways”) and ‘chronic block’ (‘the cells start ‘throwing out’ parts of themselves”) occurs. Through this, the cells undergo degradation. This was first seen in the nucluus and cytoplasmic layer of cells.

At the moment all approaches to treat neurodegenerative diseases boost cell clearance, but now it seems that this isn’t the best strategy to take as during degradation, the cell process “depletes the cell of material, damaging its nucleus and cytoplasm and leaving behind cell corpses with a fragile nucleus and thin cytoplasmic layer.” Therefore, the researchers of the study are currently trying to confirm whether the findings occur in all autophagy-faulty diseases.

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