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Science Café to demonstrate how the body recycles cells to maintain health

Published April 04, 2013

A healthy planet relies on recycling and cleaning. The same can be said for maintaining healthy cells in the human body.

During the April Science Café, a North Dakota State University expert will explain how a mechanism present in organisms, ranging from yeast to humans, enables cells to clean house and recycle molecules.

Sangita Sinha, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is scheduled to present “Nature’s ‘Green’ Health Care Plan: Cellular Recycling by Autophagy” Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. in Stoker’s Basement, Hotel Donaldson, 101 N. Broadway in Fargo.

Autophagy is derived from the Greek words “auto,” meaning “self,” and “phagy,” meaning “to eat.” Sinha explains that during autophagy, when large molecular assemblies inside cells are damaged, harmful or no longer needed by the cell, they are degraded so its component building blocks can be reused to make new molecules the cell needs.

“Why is autophagy important? Even reduced levels of cellular autophagy result in major health problems as it prevents cells from eliminating or cleaning up cellular components that are no longer needed or are defective because of mutations or damaged from UV radiation or pollutants,” Sinha said.

The accumulation of defective or damaged cellular components causes many chronic diseases, including cancers and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Reduced levels of autophagy also prevent the elimination of pathogens, including HIV and influenza, which live inside cells.

“Hence, autophagy allows cells to survive conditions of reduced nutrition and increased stress and also prevents accumulation of harmful molecules inside cells, helping prevent disease as diverse as cancer, cardiac diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, aging and many infectious diseases,” Sinha said.

Humans can increase cellular autophagy through exercise and reducing caloric intake. “Recycling occurs at all levels – molecular, cellular organismal, environmental – and is important for the health of the system at each level,” Sinha said. “Therefore, activities that promote recycling are good for the health of the system.”

The presentation is part of the College of Science and Mathematics’ Science Café series. Each month, a scientist presents on a different topic and time is allowed for discussion with the scientist and other attendees. Attendees must be 21 or older or accompanied by a parent or guardian.

For more information, contact Keri Drinka at 701-231-6131 or



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North Dakota State University
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Last Updated: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 11:25:11 AM