Japanese scientist wins Nobel medicine prize for work on 'self-eating' cell mechanism

Monday, 2016-10-03 22:08:34
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Yoshinori Ohsumi, a professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology, attends a news conference after he won the Nobel medicine prize at Tokyo Institute of Technology in Tokyo, Japan, October 3, 2016. (Credit: Reuters)
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Japan's Yoshinori Ohsumi won the 2016 Nobel prize for medicine for ground-breaking experiments with yeast which exposed a key mechanism in the body's defences where cells degrade and recycle their components.

Understanding the science behind the process, called "autophagy" or "self-eating", has led to a better understanding of diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and type 2 diabetes, the prize committee said in its statement on Monday.

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

Ohsumi's work - carried out in the 1990s and described by commentators as "paradigm-shifting" and "pioneering" - included locating the genes that regulate autophagy. This is important for medicine because it helps show why errors in these genes can contribute to a range of diseases.

The Physiology or Medicine prize, the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each year, is worth 8 million Swedish crowns (US$933,000).

Reuters