Monday, January 1, 2008

Taking a Peek at Intracellular Housekeeping

By Lorena Ruggero

Cells use a process called autophagy (literally, eating oneself) to survive periods of starvation and to clean up damaged organelles, misfolded protein clumps, and other cellular debris.

autophagosomes
autophagosomes

However, autophagy has been difficult to study in animals, requiring electron microscopy to detect the specialized structures, called autophagosomes, that serve as cellular recycling centers. It has been even more difficult to get a sense of the kinetics of the process, in other words, how brisk is the clean-up activity.

In work recently presented at the Gordon Conference on Autophagy held in Ventura, California, BSC investigators described a new method to measure the process in heart and other tissues.

Dr. Roberta Gottlieb
Dr. Roberta Gottlieb

Dr. Gottlieb, who presented the work, plans to use the method to understand how cells use autophagy to protect themselves during a heart attack.