Science behind the picture – ‘Autophagy’

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Pac man representing autophagy
Pac man representing autophagy

Session 4A at the International Symposium on ALS/MND in Brussels is on the topic of autophagy. ‘Autophagy’ literally means that the cell eats part of itself, so the picture of the 80s game pac man where the aliens are being eaten was a catchy way to illustrate this session. A characteristic sign of motor neurones affected by MND, as seen down the microscope is the presence of clumps of protein, but it is a puzzle about how those proteins got there. Is too much protein produced, or has the cell’s way of getting rid of the normal level of protein recycling gone wrong? One way of proteins being recycled is that they are digested down to their amino acid building blocks by a process called autophagy. The presentations in Session 4A looks at how the process of autophagy goes wrong in MND – which of the known mutations (eg FUS, C9orf72 and SOD1) affects it  – for good or bad!

Thanks to Andrew Greasley for creating the pictures for all these science behind the picture posts.

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