Autophagy is a highly regulated homeostatic degradative process where cells destroy their own components via the lysosomal machinery and recycle them. This process is associated with diverse diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, aging, cancers and Crohn’s disease. Via extensive crosstalk with pro-apoptotic signaling pathways, autophagy can also contribute to cell death and greatly influence general cell health. Malfunctions of autophagy can influence longevity and productivity of cells to function at full capacity.
Elucidating the correlation between autophagy and apoptotic cell death has become the focus of a great deal of research, particularly in tumor biology. On one hand, autophagy may induce cell death by degrading essential components; on the other hand, it may facilitate survival of cancer cells under unfavorable metabolic conditions. For example, cancer cells with mutated anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 may survive chemotherapy by employing a protective autophagic process.
Merck is the leader in providing new, innovative products for studying autophagy mechanisms and identifying activators and inhibitors of autophagy.