A Close Look at Autophagy, Cell Rejuvenation, and Aging

Aging is a natural process that can’t be stopped, but it’s not something we have to accept

The aging process is inevitable, but there are ways to slow down the clock.

Autophagy and cell rejuvenation are two processes that help us maintain youthful cells and keep our bodies healthy.

We need these processes for optimal health because they remove waste from cells, repair damaged tissues, and protect against infections.

Our bodies naturally produce autophagy to clean up old or damaged cells so they don’t accumulate over time.

Cell rejuvenation helps with this by repairing damage caused by free radicals, which cause oxidative stress on the body’s cells.

These two processes work together to remove waste and keep our cells healthy.

If a cell is damaged, autophagy allows the broken down parts of the cell to be recycled for energy or used to build new material.

Meanwhile, if the cell has served its purpose but is still intact, it can be removed by this process as well before it becomes damaged.

Cell rejuvenation helps this process by preventing free radicals from damaging cells. Together, these two processes help us maintain healthy cells for a longer life.  

When a person who is twenty-five years old undergoes an autopsy, their organs will look the same as those of someone who is fifty or sixty years old. This is because the body doesn’t replace itself like it should as it ages.

With cell rejuvenation, we can slow down the aging process and keep our organs healthy for a longer period of time.  

As people age, their cells lose the ability to remove waste properly, which leads to less efficient metabolism and more oxidative stress that damages cells over time.

This means that our bodies are unable to do the important functions that they once did.

We can slow down the aging process and fight against the decline of our organs by using autophagy to remove damaged cells while protecting the healthy ones with cell rejuvenation.  

It’s never too late to start a new lifestyle to maintain optimal health throughout life.

In fact, older adults are living longer and healthier than ever before. The key is to start early to reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle that can extend your life.

By keeping our cells protected with cell rejuvenation, we will age at a slower rate and avoid chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Autophagy is a process in which cells eat and destroy their own contents. It has been shown to have effects on cell rejuvenation, which can delay the aging of cells.

On top of this, autophagy is also linked to several benefits for human health, such as protection from infection and cancer, improved cellular repair, and increased lifespan.

Read on to learn what autophagy is, how it works, how we can rejuvenate cells through autophagy specifically, and its benefits for our health.

What Is Autophagy And How Does It Work?

Autophagy is a natural process in which cells degrade and remove their own contents.

In fact, autophagy is one way that the body recycles waste. (1) Some of the things that are recycled during this process include protein components known as organelles (like mitochondria), cell membranes, and ribosomes.

To begin with, autophagy occurs in a type of sac known as an autophagosome.

An autophagosome is made when all the necessary parts of a cell’s internal machinery come together and form a vesicle (or membrane-bound sac) surrounded by membranes that are full of proteins and lipids important for recycling cells.

This means that autophagy has two phases—the generation of an autophagosome, and the actual degradation.

A cell can be said to undergo autophagy when it makes new vesicles for breaking down its contents. The process involves different proteins and takes place within part of a cell known as the lysosome, which is like a recycling center for the cell. (2)

The autophagosome eventually fuses with the lysosome, and its contents are broken down into molecules that can be reused by cells.

Autophagy takes place in all our cells to some degree, but we focus on two specific types of autophagy:

  • Macroautophagy, or autophagy with a large vesicle, and
  • Microautophagy, which is with a small vesicle.

Macroautophagy is the major process of eating and recycling unnecessary parts of a cell.

It involves the formation of an isolation membrane around portions of cells that are to be broken down for energy, which creates an amorphous, double-membraned sac known as an autophagosome.

The second step is known as microautophagy, which involves the selective degradation of specific organelles or substrates within a cell by the autophagosomes to be recycled. This means that the autophagosomes break down even more components from a cell to recycle them.

Both macroautophagy and microautophagy occur in all the cells in our body, but they are especially important for neurons and cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells). (3)

In fact, autophagy is essential for the survival of neurons since they have a limited capacity to make proteins.

Therefore, if autophagy were inhibited in neurons, it would lead to the accumulation of damaged proteins and organelles, which would ultimately cause cell death.

What Are The Benefits Of Autophagy For Our Health?

Beyond the potential to slow down and even prevent cancer development, autophagy is also linked with several benefits for human health in general.

This includes protecting us from infection, improving cellular repair, and increasing our lifespan.

Autophagy Helps Protect Against Infections

One way in which autophagy protects against infections is by cleaning out viruses or bacteria that might have infected a cell. This will help keep them from spreading and becoming harmful to the body, which can be fatal in some cases.

In addition, autophagy is also beneficial for fighting off viruses because it increases interferon levels in the body (interferon being an anti-viral agent). As a result, viruses are less able to spread through the body. (4)

Autophagy also plays an important role in fighting cancer (5), and it can be used as an effective tool for treating some cancers by inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death. 

Autophagy has also been shown to help reduce tumors, such as those that grow in our organs or muscles. (6)

To actually prove this, a study was conducted on mice where a virus was injected into their muscles, which ultimately led to the formation of tumors. When autophagy levels were boosted in these mice, it resulted in more tumor shrinkage and better survival rates. The same results could be achieved by injecting the relevant gene responsible for activating autophagy directly into the cancerous cells. (7)

Autophagy Increases Longevity And Protects Against Age-Related Diseases

Scientists have found a link between autophagy levels and lifespan.

For example, when worms were genetically modified to have more autophagic activity, it extended their life span significantly. (8)

As mentioned earlier, this is because autophagy can help cells fight off infections, clean out damaged proteins, and even degrade molecules that might cause cancer.

The process of autophagy slows down in our cells as we age, leading to cellular damage and ultimately death.

This process can be reversed by fasting or other methods, but it’s best to start early in life.

How To Achieve Autophagy Through Fasting

One way to achieve autophagy is through fasting, which involves abstaining from food for a certain period of time.

Fasting can increase autophagy levels and protect against cellular damage and death, thereby helping prevent certain diseases that come with aging (e.g., cancer).

As a result, fasting can mitigate cellular aging in general. (9)

Autophagy is the product of evolution and an important defense mechanism against stress that allows the cell to maintain homeostasis at the level of its contents.

Fasting offers a direct method to increase self-digestion and remove unwanted materials from our cells. In fact, fasting for three days increases autophagy levels by 50%.

Scientists have also discovered that the process of autophagy plays a role in longevity.  A study was conducted on yeast cells, and it was shown that depletion of energy sources or environmental stress leads to an increase in self-digestion (autophagy) and longevity. (10)

In addition, fasting has been found to have anti-cancer effects due to autophagy’s ability to kill cancerous cells in a process known as mitophagy, which involves the degradation of damaged mitochondria within cells. (11)  

This suggests that fasting may be useful for preventing the development of cancer by slowing its growth and extending lifespan.

Related: Intermittent Fasting For Health

Are there dangers to autophagy?

Autophagy has some known hazards and risks. For example, autophagy can cause the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are free radicals and can be toxic to cells in high amounts.

This goes along with ROS being generally harmful to the body and a key component of aging.

A study was done where mice were genetically modified to have more autophagy activity. As a result, these mice were healthier in general and lived longer because they had a stronger immune system, but they also exhibited higher levels of ROS. (12)

In some ways, this risk can actually be used as a benefit. For example, by inducing high levels of autophagy for short periods, you can get rid of excess pathogens or damaged cells, making you healthier in the long term.

Autophagy is not a double-edged sword; it’s just a sword. And it’s useful provided you use the right edge of the sword for the job at hand. It’s most helpful in removing damaged mitochondria to improve mitochondrial function.

However, once you’ve gotten rid of the damaged mitochondria, (and this will happen if you are practicing intermittent fasting at least two to three days per week) then there is no need for autophagy. You don’t want your system spewing out free radicals all the time.

The researchers induced autophagy in a mouse model that, in fact, no longer needed it. Meaning that all they did was induce oxidative stress and aging at the cellular level.  

There is nothing you can do to avoid this because autophagy doesn’t know whether it’s supposed to be doing good or bad things.

We need some way to turn on beneficial autophagy and turn off harmful autophagy, but that may be difficult or impossible given our current understanding of the process.

This is why it’s important to activate autophagy, but not too much of it.

Summary

Fasting is one way to activate autophagy, which is a defense mechanism that helps cells maintain homeostasis.

Autophagy also plays a role in longevity and has anti-cancer effects. Though autophagy can cause the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS; free radicals), it can also be used for beneficial purposes such as getting rid of excess pathogens or damaged cells.

Therefore, inducing autophagy for short periods of time can help improve your long-term health and protect you against cancer.

The process of autophagy is not a double-edged sword… it’s just a sword. And you want to use the right edge of the sword for the job at hand, which is removing damaged mitochondria.

However, once you’ve gotten rid of the damaged mitochondria by fasting 2-3 days per week, then there is no need for additional autophagy.

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