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Breaking! Yoshinori Ohsumi Wins 2016 Nobel Prize In Physiology/Medicine

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​The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine has been awarded to Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi, for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy. He is the 6th Medicine Laureate born in Japan

Thomas Perlmann, Secretary of the Nobel Committee, who announced the winner today at the Nobel Assembly Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, said Ohsumi discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.

The Nobel Prize winner generated an enormous interest in autophagy and is now one of the most intensely studied areas of biomedical research

He studied thousands of yeast mutants and identified 15 genes that are essential for autophagy.

The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning “self”, and phagein, meaning “to eat”. Thus,autophagy denotes “self eating”.

This concept emerged during the 1960’s, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation.

Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant that little was known until, in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990’s, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker’s yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to elucidate the underlying mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in our cells.

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Ohsumi’s discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. 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. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.

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