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UNM Technology Holds Promise for Degenerative Diseases Associated with Aging

Albuquerque, NM – August 6, 2015 A technology developed at the University of New Mexico and being commercialized by local start-up company Biophagy, LLC, may be the key to a new way to treat many diseases associated with the aging process.  The technology, developed by Dr. Vojo Deretic from UNM’s Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, focuses on ways to regulate the process of autophagy.  Autophagy is a cellular process in which subunits within cells called autophagosomes clean out damaged and surplus cellular material that may interfere with normal cellular function.  Impaired autophagy, often slowing down as people age, has been connected to several neurodegenerative and autoimmune disorders such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.  Biophagy is developing drugs that will stimulate autophagy as a way to cure or manage these and many other serious and chronic diseases.   For more information, visit the company’s website at www.biophagy.com, and  see a video of Steven Montoya’s July 31, 2015 report, “A natural vacuum cleaner could help reduce aging for Baby Boomers,” from television news station KOB 4 online at  http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S3867466.shtml#.Vb9ZBFJOLCQ.

Also see Sayyed Shah’s August 25th article, “UNM scientists discover protein in immune system,” DailyLobo.com, reprinted below.

UNM scientists discover protein in immune system

By Sayyed Shah Published 08/24/15 11:01pm | Updated 08/24/15 7:55pm

UNM scientists have discovered a protein that organizes autophagy in the human immune system, “the vital internal cell-scrubbing process that maintains the intracellular landscape by gathering and disposing of worn-out proteins and invading microorganisms,” according to UNM press release.

Autophagy is the early immune response that regulates which cells die or live longer.

“UNM Professor and Chair of the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department Vojo Deretic, Ph.D., and colleagues are able to provoke an early immune response through autophagy in the human body via the ‘immunity-related GTPase family M’ protein, or IRGM, a distinctly human gene where mutations causing inflammatory diseases often occur. IRGM plays a direct role in organizing autophagy’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory functions in Crohn’s disease and other inflammation-related illnesses,” according to the statement.

The new findings explain the molecular processes that use the human body’s immune system to prevent infectious diseases, according to the statement.

“We expected a more indirect mechanism and process that assembled this core autophagy machinery,” the statement quoted Deretic. “But now we know that the IRGM autophagy regulator is the very centerpiece of the early immune response process in humans. Without it, we all would suffer some form of inflammatory disease.”