A Japanese biologist has won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Yoshinori Ohsumi discovered how cells in the body break down and recycle themselves -- a process known as autophagy.
Ohsumi showed how cells get rid of defective proteins or degrade unnecessary ones to generate energy. This mechanism is called autophagy, and it common to all organisms with nucleated cells.
Autophagy removes non-functioning proteins from the body. It also generates energy by dissolving proteins when there is a lack of nutrients.
"I can't say anything other than that it's a great honor. We didn't see much progress in the field for decades, but we were able to discover genes related to autophagy by using yeast. That opened a new horizon in the study of this area," Ohsumi said.
Ohsumi used enzyme cells to study the mechanism of autophagy. In 1993, he discovered the gene that controls this process. He went on to unravel the entire autophagy process.
Researchers have established that autophagy does not function properly in people with Parkinson's disease and other neurological illnesses.
Ohsumi's discovery could contribute to the development of preventive treatments or cures for these illnesses.
The 71-year-old is from Fukuoka City, and is currently an honorary professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
In 2015, he received the Canada Gairdner International Award and in 2013, he was named a Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate.