ELI5: Autophagy

As Feynman says, if you can’t explain something to a five year old, you don’t fully understand it! Here is my ELI5 for autophagy.


Our bodies are full of cells which are the basic building blocks of living things. They’re like the lego pieces that make up humans. We have skin cells, brain cells, fat tissue cells and more.

Over time, cells accumulate dead organelles, damaged proteins, and oxidized particles that interfere with cell function and accelerate aging. In other words, cells sometimes get too old, and need to be thrown out or cleaned up.

Autophagy is the body’s method of recycling the junk in your cells, which keeps you young.

Just like we have trash, and we recycle it so that it can be reused for something else, autophagy is the body doing the same thing with the “trash” or “junk” in our bodies, which are dying or dead cells. It’s the cellular equivalent of burning your trash to stay warm.

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