It’s that time of year again. . . and the lucky recipient for the Physiology or Medicine Prize is (envelope, please). . . .Yoshinori Ohsumi, a professor in Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Frontier Research Center. The Nobel citation begins like this:
This year’s Nobel Laureate discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.
The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning “self”, and phagein, meaning “to eat”. Thus,autophagy denotes “self eating”. This concept emerged during the 1960’s, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation. Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant that little was known until, in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990’s, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker’s yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to elucidate the underlying mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in our cells.
Ohsumi’s discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.
You can read the very lucid description of Ohsumi’s research at the link above.
It’s unusual these days for the Prize (except in literature) to go to a single individual. Kudos to Professor Ohsumi, who’s surely having a very good day.
Now for a contest: guess the recipients of the physics and literature Nobels. Physics usually gets up to three awardees, but literature prizes go to one person. Those who correctly guess one physics laureate and the literature laureate will get an autographed copy of Faith Versus Fact. In case of ties the first winner gets the prize. If nobody wins in both categories, then those who guess the literature laureate will get the book (again, the first correct entry in case of ties wins).
You have to give both names before the prizes are awarded, and only one guess per customer (put it in the comments below).