Discovering Autophagy’s Unexpected Role In Telomere Maintenance And Cancer Prevention

Scientists discover a cell process that reverses the cancer cycle.

Telomeres are molecular tips that protect the ends and prevent fraying of shoelaces when they are tied. They also protect the ends and prevent them from fusing together when cells divide and duplicate DNA. Losing the plastic tips can lead to a messier shoelace, but telomeres may cause cancer.

Scientists at the Salk Institute, who were studying the relationship between telomeres and cancer, made a shocking discovery: an autophagy process that is generally thought to be a survival strategy actually promotes cell death.

The research, published in Nature on 23 January 2019, revealed autophagy as a novel pathway that suppresses tumors. It also suggests that cancer treatments which block this process may inadvertently promote it.


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