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Tuesday, 4th October 2016
In General Japan News,

Japanese biologist, Yoshinori Ohsumi, wins Nobel Prize for medicine

The first of this year’s Nobel Prizes has been announced with an accolade for a Japanese biologist who has discovered how cell recycling works.

Yoshinori Ohsumi was declared this year’s winner in the field of medicine by Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm yesterday (October 3rd).

He has been honoured due to the ground-breaking work he does on autophagy, which is the process used by cells to recycle their own contents.

The name comes from the Greek for self-eating and by studying it, Ohsumi has seen that after breaking down the contents of a cell, these building blocks can be used elsewhere.

He said that he found out about winning the prize while working in his lab and was very surprised at the news.

The Nobel Committee explained the importance of Ohsumi's discoveries, which have “led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content”.

Throughout his career, the cell biologist has studied thousands of strains of yeast until he identified the 15 genes that control the internal recycling process.

It is such an important field, because mutations in these genes can have huge consequences, such as neurodegenerative diseases, the growth of cancerous cells and a developing resistance to anti-cancer drugs.

Juleen Zierath, a biologist and member of the Nobel Committee, told the Daily Mail: “We need autophagy to ward off invading molecules, for example, to deal with very large proteins that might be long-lived, or perhaps defective.

She added: “But we also need autophagy for renewal, in other words, we need autophagy to break down proteins for self-reliance.”

Working as a researcher at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Professor Ohsumi is the sixth Japanese Nobel laureate in the area of medicine.

This takes Japan’s overall total of Nobel Prizes across all categories to 25 since 1949.
The Nobel Prizes for 2016 will be presented to the winners at a ceremony on December 10th.


Related news stories:
'Japan's Nobel Prize' honours Judi Dench and Anish Kapoor (12th July 2011)
Japanese scientist scoops Nobel Prize (9th October 2008)