A biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology has won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries on the process for degrading and recycling cellular components.
Yoshinori Ohsumi, honorary professor at the university’s Frontier Research Center, was awarded the prize for his research on autophagy, a concept that first emerged during the 1960s when researchers observed that cells could destroy their own contents.
Little was known about the phenomenon until Professor Ohsumi conducted a series of experiments in the 1990s using baker’s yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to explain the underlying mechanisms for the process in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in human cells.
His discovery has led to revelations in the importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, including the adaptation to starvation and response to infection.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is the first to be announced this year. The winner of the physics prize will be revealed on 4 October.