Caloric restriction and the precision-control of autophagy: A strategy for delaying neurodegenerative disease progression

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Abstract

Caloric restriction (CR) is known to extend lifespan in most organisms, indicating that nutrient and energy regulatory mechanisms impact aging. The greatest risk factor for neurodegeneration is age; thus, the antiaging effects of CR might attenuate progressive cell death and avert the aggregation of abnormal proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases. CR is a potent inducer of autophagy, a tightly regulated intracellular process that facilitates recycling of abnormal protein aggregates and damaged organelles into bioenergetic and biosynthetic materials to maintain homeostasis. Thus, dysregulated autophagy can lead to cellular dysfunction, abnormal protein accumulation, proteotoxicity and subsequently the onset of several neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, the targeted and precision-controlled activation of autophagy represents a promising therapeutic strategy. Non-pharmacological therapeutic interventions that delay aging by modulating specific stages of autophagy might be beneficial against premature aging, neurodegeneration and its associated ailments. However, the dynamic and often compensatory cross-talk that exists between the protein degradation pathways makes clinical translational approaches challenging. Here we review the primary autophagy pathways in the context of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, focusing on compensatory mechanisms and pathway failure. By critically assessing each underlying molecular machinery, we reveal their impact on aging and unmask the role of caloric restriction in changing cellular fate by delayed aging through stimulation of autophagy. This may point towards novel and better targeted interventions that exploit the autophagic machinery in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

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