The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi for his work on the mechanisms of autophagy.
1.Yoshinori Ohsumi is set to receive 8m Swedish kronor, or $937,399, at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm in December. He is also the fourth Japanese scientist to receive the prize in Medicine.
2. Ohsumi was awarded for his discoveries of the mechanisms of Autophagy — which literally means ‘self-eating’ and “is the way cells can remain healthy through an internal recycling program whereby they destroy their own contents in order to make way for new cells, as well as fighting off invading bacteria and viruses.”
3. What makes Ohsumi’s discoveries so important is that he is actually the first scientist to study and accurately define cell recycling. He first detected autophagy when he was studying yeast cells in 1988. Although Ohsumi has humbly referred to himself as “a basic researcher in yeast,” his discovery is truly remarkable in that it is a basic tenet of the survival of human cells.
4. As the New York Times reports,
“Ohsumi’s discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content,” the Nobel Assembly said. “His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection.”
5. His research has a number of real world applications that could very well save many lives.
In a press release, the Nobel Assembly stated,
“Ohsumi’s discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection.”