Autophagy, the process by which cells recycle cytoplasm and dispose of excess or defective organelles, has entered the research spotlight largely owing to the discovery of the protein components that drive this process. Identifying the autophagy genes in yeast and finding orthologs in other organisms reveals the conservation of the mechanism of autophagy in eukaryotes and allows the use of molecular genetics and biology in different model systems to study this process. By mostly morphological studies, autophagy has been linked to disease processes. Whether autophagy protects from or causes disease is unclear. Here, we summarize current knowledge about the role of autophagy in disease and health.
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