Autophagy: Reduce the consequences of diabetes through the body's own “waste collection”

Autophagy: Reduce the consequences of diabetes through the body's own “waste collection”

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Autophagy stimulation helps heal diabetes damage

In a recently published study, researchers describe for the first time how the body's own disposal system, known as autophagy, helps blood vessels damaged by diabetes to heal. According to the research team, this could serve as a new therapeutic approach for diabetes.

Researchers from the Physiological Society, Europe's largest network of physiology experts, found in studies on mice that starting autophagy can help heal damaged blood vessels. Such damage typically occurs as a result of diabetes. The results were recently presented in the journal "Experimental Physiology".

The body's own disposal system

Cells use the process of autophagy to break down broken proteins, cell membranes, viruses or bacteria, for example. The cell waste is captured with special membranes and then broken down into usable individual parts, which are then made available to the cells again. Disrupted autophagy is associated with various diseases such as diabetes, muscle wasting, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels

Damage to the blood vessels is one of the common complications for people with diabetes. This can lead to eye problems, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction or the diabetic foot disease that can result in an amputation. Vascular complications are essential risk factors for morbidity and mortality in diabetic patients.

Autophagy ensures healthier cells

As the researchers report, autophagy is responsible for the body sorting out damaged cells to produce newer and healthier cells instead. Previous studies have shown that the process of autophagy is impaired in diabetics. So far, however, it is unclear why this is the case.

Autophagy stimulation protects against damage from diabetes

The research team at Yonsei University College of Medicine has now shown in mice with diabetes that stimulation of autophagy can protect against vascular dysfunction. Due to the supported start-up of the body's own disposal system, the smaller arteries of the mice had a larger diameter - an indication of healthier arteries.

New approach to diabetes

"We are thrilled with these results, as our study suggests that targeted autophagy could be a potential target for the treatment of vascular problems in type 2 diabetics," said study author Soo-Kyoung Choi. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Soo-Kyoung Choi, Youngin Kwon, Young ‐ Ho Lee, u.a .: Stimulation of autophagy improves vascular function in the mesenteric arteries of type 2 diabetic mice, Experimental Physiology, 2019,

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