The 2016 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine has gone to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his pioneering work on autophagy - the process in which cells degenerate, die and then are recycled.
His work has been crucial in understanding the factors that can lead to a person getting cancer or being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Ohsumi studied the effects of autophagy in yeast, in particular how proteins would then break down in order to adapt to the nutritional environment.
In short what Ohsumi has been working on is one of life’s great processes, the way in which biology recycles itself in order to survive. In humans this would be the process of cell degeneration, death and then being eventually absorbed back into the human body.
His particular focus has been on the genes that control this ‘self eating’ process. It is errors in these genes that then goes on to cause diseases like cancer.
The academic admits he was “surprised” when he learned of receiving the award and was in the lab at the time.
Ohsumi’s work has been credited with creating huge interest in the field and is regarded as a pioneer of the subject.
The 2015 Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to three scientists for discovering groundbreaking treatments fighting malaria and infections caused by the roundworm.
William C. Campbell from Ireland and Satoshi Ōmura from Japan focused on a range of infections caused by the roundworm, including river blindness, while the third recipient Youyou Tu won for her work on Malaria.
This is a developing story and will be updated as we get more information.
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