Nobel Prize 2016

Image by Reuters File Photo

Article by Joey Yoo

Once again, a Japanese man has won the Nobel Prize: Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries on autophagy. Ohsumi is the twenty fifth Japanese man to win a Nobel Prize. He was given the 107th award in Physiology or Medicine.

Yoshinori Ohsumi has an impressive background and has received many awards for his work in science before this Nobel Prize. He was born in Fukuoka, in 1945. He is a cell biologist who specializes in the process of autophagy, and has been studying it for 27 years. highlights his most important achievements: In his academic years, he received a Bachelor of Science and a Doctorate of Science from the University of Tokyo; Later, he worked as a professor at many prestigious universities but is now retired and is the head of the Cell Biology Unit at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; His first paper was published in the Journal of Cell Biology in 1992. He then also received a Kyoto Prize for the autophagy experiment that he wrote about. Ohsumi has also received many prestigious awards in the past, such as the International Prize for Biology, the Rosenstein Award and the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences to name a few. He has also collaborated on many scientific papers with his wife, Mariko, is also a professor, although she works at a different university (“Yoshinori”).

Autophagy was discovered in the 1960s, but the paper that Ohsumi wrote in 1993 helped biologists understand how it works. Autophagy comes from two Greek words: “auto”, which means self and “phagein”, which means to eat. Melissa Healy, a reporter from the LA times concisely explains autophagy. Autophagy’s primary function is to transfer dying or broken cells to somewhere in the body where they can be recycled. It helps destroy excess cells, and is also useful during starvation because it breaks down cells and turns their components into energy. Autophagy also helps protect the body from disease, helps embryos develop, differentiates cells, and strengthens the immune system. When autophagy, the removal of dead cells, is not completed, people may develop diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and other sicknesses such as Alzheimer (Healy).

According to a recent article published by Science Magazine, Ohsumi received the Nobel Prize because he found autophagy in yeast cells. In the experiment he conducted, he was able to find fifteen genes responsible for autophagy. To do this, he developed a type of yeast that was missing certain genes. If the genes responsible for autophagy were missing, the vacuole would start to expand. This expansion occured because the vacuole is the place that cellular goes to get recycled. If autophagy did not happen, then the cells piled up at the vacuole.  Normally, the genes in yeast are so small that they can’t be seen under a microscope, but the vacuole being affected by the gene became big enough that the team was able to see it under a microscope (“Nobel Honors”).



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Media Source

Reuters File Photo. Yoshinori Ohsumi. N.d. Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo.

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