This year Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan awarded the Noble Prize in the category of Physiology or Medicine “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.” He is the professor of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Autophagy is a process where cell eats themselves. In cell physiology this is a fundamental process with major deduction for human health and diseases. The process of Autophagy is necessary for recycling of damaged cell parts and the orderly degradation. The failure of the process caused aging and cell damage.
The Noble Prize was announced in Stockholm. In a statement the Noble committee stated that Yoshinori Ohsumi “discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.”
According to the statement, during the 1960’s the concept autophagy first appeared and the researchers first noticed 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.”
In the early 1990’s the cell biologist during his experiments, used baker’s yeast to identify genes for autophagy. He explained the mechanisms used for autophagy in yeast and demonstrated that the same machinery is used in human cells.
The jury said, his inventions “have led to a new paradigm in the understanding of how the cell recycles its contents”. “Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.”
In 1963 the Belgian biochemist and Medicine laureate Christian de Duve coined the term autophagy.
Ohsumi got eight million Swedish kronor (around $936,000 or 834,000 euros).