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Researchers identify a new gene involved in autophagy, the cellular recycling program
Date:1/21/2010

This release is available in Spanish.

All cells are equipped with a recycling programme to collect and remove unnecessary cellular components. Autophagy sequesters and digests aged organelles, damaged proteins and other components, which, if not disintegrated and recycled, threaten cell viability. Researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) led by Antonio Zorzano, head of the Molecular Medicine Programme and senior professor of the University of Barcelona, have identified a new gene that favours cell autophagy. The article has been published in EMBO Reports, which highlights it in the section "Hot off the press".

One of the main challenges in biomedicine is to decipher the complete map of genes and their products, the proteins that regulates autophagy in cells. "The interest lies in its association with human diseases", says Zorzano. There is increasing evidence of a link between autophagy and the appearance and progression of cancer, neurodegenerative pathologies, infections and aging. For example, several studies demonstrate that some neurodegenerative diseases caused by the abnormal aggregation of proteins, such as Huntington's disease, are associated with reduced autophagy. Pharmacological induction of this process could help to remove the cellular protein aggregates and to relieve the symptoms.

Caroline Mauvezin, PhD student with Zorzano and first author of the article, says that "it is possible to envisage future therapies based on the modulation of autophagy". However, further knowledge about this pathway and its components are required as well as a complete understanding of the precise role of autophagy in each disease in order to be able to manipulate it for therapeutic purposes. "We have identified a new player and now we have to study it in depth", says Mauvezin.

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Contact: Snia Armengou
sonia.armengou@irbbarcelona.org
34-934-037-255
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Source:Eurekalert  

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