Autophagy or self-eating is a complicated cellular process that is involved in protein and organelle digestion occurring via a lysosome-dependent pathway. This process is of great importance in maintaining normal cellular homeostasis. However, disruption of autophagy is closely associated with various human diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, heart disease and pathogen infection. Therefore, small molecules that modulate autophagy can be employed to dissect this complex process and ultimately could have high potential for the treatment of a variety of diseases. This critical review discusses general aspects of autophagy, autophagy-associated diseases and autophagy regulators for biological research and therapeutic applications (207 references).
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