Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, born on 9th February 1945 in Japan, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in the year 2016 for his discoveries on how cells recycle their content, a process known as autophagy, a Greek term for “self-eating.”. His results were groundbreaking.
The concept of autophagy emerged in the 1960s. But it wasn’t until Ohsumi began studying it in the late 80s that real progress was made. Not only did he show that the autophagy process does exist in yeast, Ohsumi also discovered how the process is controlled, how it works from start to finish, and the key genes and molecules involved.
Since the pioneering work of Ohsumi, scientists have learned more and more about autophagy. Yoshinori Ohsumi had been active in various research areas, but upon starting his own lab in 1988, he focused his efforts on protein degradation in the vacuole, an organelle that corresponds to the lysosome in human cells.
Yoshinori Ohsumi, 71, had received the prestigious 8m Swedish kronor (£718,000) award for uncovering “mechanisms for autophagy”, a fundamental process in cells that scientists believe can be harnessed to fight cancer and dementia.