ABOVE: The chromosomes on the left come from human cells with functioning autophagy and look normal. The chromosomes on the right are from cells where autophagy has been turned off and appear distorted.

Cells break down and recycle their components in a process called autophagy. Researchers now suggest that autophagy may play a role in thwarting cancer. They used healthy human cells and turned off some genes to let the cells replicate like crazy. More of these cells died through autophagy than by a cell death mechanism called apoptosis. When the scientists turned off autophagy in some of these cells, they found that their chromosomes became fused and distorted, like in some cancerous cells. 

Although autophagy was thought to help tumor cells by providing them material for growth, the new results suggest that the process may actually protect cells against unchecked growth and prevent cancer-causing DNA damage,...

J. Nassour et al., “Autophagic cell death restricts chromosomal instability during replicative crisis,” Nature, doi:10.1038/s41586-019-0885-0, 2019.

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