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The Nobel Prize for Medicine rewards autophagy study

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The Nobel Prize for Medicine rewards autophagy study


Japanese Biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi has won the first Nobel Prize of the season for Medicine. His research into Autophagy in cells gained him the prestigious prize.

Thomas Perlmann, Secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine announced: “The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute has today decided to award the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.”

What’s Autophagy?

The term Autophagy was coined in 1963 by Christian de Duve. Literally “self-eating”, it refers to the process by which cells recycle themselves and it has far reaching implications across medical science. Ohsumi’s research has shed light on certain mechanisms within Autophagy. His discoveries are crucial to understanding the renewal of cells and the body’s response to food deprivation and infections.

Maria Masucci, Professor of virology at Karolinska Institute’s Department of Cell and Molecular Biology explained: “Through the removal of damaged proteins and organelles autophagy promotes cell renewal. Failure of autophagy is therefore associated with cell aging and many diseases of old age such as Alzheimer’s disease and type two diabetes. Finally, too much autophagy may have undesired effects as for example, in cancer, where autophagy can promote the growth of tumor cells and their resistance towards the cancer drugs”

Ohsumi is the sixth Japanese person to claim the Nobel prize for medicine. He began work on the subject in the 80s, by 1992 he had found 15 genes which are key to Autophagy.

The Jury said his work had led to a ‘new paradigm’ in our understanding of cell recycling.

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