Cells are clever cannibals

If you were starving on a desert island, you might choose to eat your left arm first to preserve your dominant hand, assuming that like most people you’re right handed. Similarly, starving cells can decide which organelles to degrade when they need to recycle nutrients. New research shows that mitochondria, which are like mini-powerhouses in the cell, can protect themselves from being cannibalised by their own cells. Cells regularly cannibalise their own organelles in a process known as autophagy. A European research team led by Professor Luca Scorrano published the research in Nature Cell Biology. They saw that mitochondria avoid being degraded during cellular autophagy by fusing together in an elongated shape. This helps cells survive periods of starvation because the elongated mitochondria can continue to produce energy. Read More »