Aging is associated with many deleterious changes at the cellular level, including the accumulation of potentially toxic components that can have devastating effects on health. A key protective mechanism to this end is the cellular recycling process called autophagy. During autophagy, damaged or surplus cellular components are delivered to acidic vesicles called lysosomes, that secure degradation and recycling of the components. Numerous links between autophagy and aging exist. Autophagy declines with age, and increasing evidence suggests that this reduction plays important roles in both physiological aging and the development of age-associated disorders. Studies in pharmacologically and genetically manipulated model organisms indicate that defects in autophagy promote age-related diseases, and conversely, that enhancement of autophagy has beneficial effects on both healthspan and lifespan. Here, we review our current understanding of the role of autophagy in different physiological processes and their molecular links with aging and age-related diseases. We also highlight some recent advances in the field that could accelerate the development of autophagy-based therapeutic interventions.
Keywords: AMPK; Aging; Autophagy; C. elegans; Healthspan; Lifespan; Neurodegeneration; mTOR.
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