All cells practice autophagy (from Greek autosown and phagein, eat), digesting parts of themselves with the aid of their lysosomes. Amazingly, autophagy is an indispensable activity for cell survival.
In certain situations, autophagy is a purely food activity. When an organism is deprived of food and its body's reserves are depleted, cells, as a strategy for survival in times of crisis, begin to digest parts of themselves.
In the everyday life of a cell, autophagy allows the destruction of worn cell organelles and the reuse of some of its molecular components.
The autophagy process begins with the approximation of the lysosomes of the structure to be eliminated. It is surrounded and surrounded by lysosomes and is contained in an enzyme-filled pouch called the autophagic vacuole.
Through autophagy, a cell destroys and rebuilds its constituents hundreds or even thousands of times. A brain nerve cell, for example, formed in our embryonic life, has all its components (except genes) under one month old. One cell in our liver each week digests and rebuilds most of its components.
At silicosis (“Disease of the miners”), which attacks the lungs, ruptures lymphosomes of phagocytic cells (macrophages), with consequent digestion of components and cell death.
Certain degenerative diseases from the human organism are credited the release of lysosomal enzymes within the cell; This would happen, for example, in certain cases of arthritis, bone joint disease.