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Japanese cell biologist wins Nobel for medicine

October 03, 2016 16:18 IST

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Medicine awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy. Ohsumi is a Japanese cell biologist specializing in autophagy. He is a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology's Frontier Research Center. Ohsumi will be awarded a prize money of 8 million Swedish crowns (around Rs 6 crore)

Autophagy is a process by which cellular components are captured into organelles called autophagosomes and then brought to the lysosome or vacuole to be broken down and recycled for other uses. It frequently comes into play during starvation, allowing cells to survive periods of privation.

Ohsumi, born in 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan, has been a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology since 2009.

He received the Kyoto Prize for Basic Science in 2012.

‘Ohsumi's discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content,’ the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said in a statement.

‘His discoveries opened the path to understanding ... many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection,’ the statement added.

Ohsumi's work on cell breakdown, a field known as autophagy, is important because it can help explain what goes wrong in a range of diseases.

"Mutations in autophagy (self eating) genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease," the statement said.

"I am extremely honoured," he told Kyodo News agency.