Tags: yoshinori ohsumi | nobel | medicine | self-eating cells

Yoshinori Ohsumi's 'Self-Eating Cells' Win Him Nobel in Medicine

Image: Yoshinori Ohsumi's 'Self-Eating Cells' Win Him Nobel in Medicine

Yoshinori Ohsumi, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, after he was awarded the Nobel Medicine Prize. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 03 Oct 2016 12:03 PM

Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his “self-eating cells” discoveries, which revealed how cells recycle their content through a process known as autophagy.

“This concept emerged during the 1960s, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming saclike vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation,” the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said in a news release.

Dr. Ohsumi used baker’s yeast to identify genes that were essential for self-eating during a series of experiments in the early 1990s, The New York Times reported. As a result of these experiments, Dr. Ohsumi’s lab noticed that the tests caused the yeast cells to create something called autophagosomes — big spherical trash cans, PBS noted.

The structures were big enough that scientists could observe them with a regular light microscope.

“Ohsumi’s discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content,” the Nobel Assembly said. “His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autography in many physiological processes, such as in the adaption to starvation or response to infection.”

Under autophagy, when our cells are starved or stressed, they don’t necessarily shut down right away, PBS reported. Instead, these self-eating cells dismantle their own components.

“By recycling part of the cellular content, autophagy allows our body to cope with starvation and with all types of stress,” biologist Maria Masucci of the Nobel Assembly said, according to PBS. “By capturing invading viruses and bacteria, autophagy is essential for the body’s defense against infection.”

According to the assembly, mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease and has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

“When I started my work, every year, probably 20 papers appeared on autophagy,” he said. “Now it’s more than 5,000. It’s a huge change.”

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Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his "self-eating cells" discoveries, which revealed how cells recycle their content through a process known as autophagy.
yoshinori ohsumi, nobel, medicine, self-eating cells
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2016-03-03
Monday, 03 Oct 2016 12:03 PM
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