Health In Focus
  • Cell suicide is associated with brain health and food security
  • It causes destruction of neurons in the brain in neurodegenerative diseases
  • It confers disease resistance to plants, which boosts crop yields, thereby ensuring food security

Cell suicide in humans and plants could lead to the development of potential treatments for neurodegenerative brain diseases and generation of disease-resistant plants, reveals new research from the University of Queensland, Australia.

The research team identified several proteins involved in cell suicide, using experimental techniques from several disciplines, including Biochemistry, Structural Biology, Neurobiology, and Plant Science.
Cell Suicide Linked to Brain Health and Food Security

The study, published in Science, was co-led by Professor Bostjan Kobe, PhD, who is an ARC Laureate Fellow at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and Affil Professorial Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia.

Other researchers who co-led the study were from the Australian National University, Griffith University in Queensland and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia. There were also a large number of international collaborators from the UK and USA.

Why is Cell Suicide an Important Phenomenon in Biology?

Cell suicide, technically termed as programmed cell death or apoptosis, is a normal phenomenon in the living world for the maintenance, regeneration, and renewal of life. Cellular suicide is observed in both plants and animals, including humans. Cellular suicide confers certain advantages during the life cycle of an organism and is crucial for sustaining life. It is also a key component of the immune response in humans - infected cells commit suicide for the benefit of the body as a whole.

In the present study, while studying proteins involved in the cell death pathway in human neurons, the researchers stumbled upon how cell death occurs in plants. In this regard, Kobe says: "We've found common ways human and plant cells bring about cell suicide."

How is Cell Suicide Linked to Brain Health?

Cell suicide is linked to brain health in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, which affect millions of people across the world. Neurodegenerative diseases can occur due to a variety of pathologic processes, all of which are linked to the common phenomenon of brain cell death.

The research team identified a distinct protein, known as sterile alpha and TIR motif-containing protein-1 (SARM-1) that is encoded by the SARM-1 gene. SARM-1 is a human-specific protein and is associated with the breakdown of brain cells across all types of neurodegenerative diseases.

The research team deciphered the three-dimensional (3D) structure of SARM-1, which may facilitate the development of novel drugs that could slow-down or even halt the progression of brain cell death. This could emerge as an effective treatment strategy for neurodegenerative diseases.

How is Cell Suicide Linked to Food Security?

Food security is becoming a major global problem, arising largely from the demand-and-supply gap - there are too many mouths to feed compared to the food that is available. A greater understanding of cell death pathways could lead to the development of disease-resistant plants, which will increase crop yields, reduce wastage, and ensure food security.

Plant diseases are responsible for the destruction of over 15 percent of crops even before they are harvested. Specific disease-resistant genes in plants can help to protect them against disease. However, the underlying mechanism of action of these genes is poorly understood. The research team has found that similar to human neuronal cells, plant cells that become infected also undergo cell suicide, which helps in resisting the disease by leaving the uninfected healthy cells intact.

Concluding Remarks

Kobe concludes: "This takes us a step closer to making effective synthetic resistance genes that can be used to provide additional protection in Australia and worldwide from crop diseases."

Reference :
  1. Cell Suicide Could Hold Key for Brain Health and Food Security - (

Source: Medindia

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