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Web Date: October 3, 2016

Yoshinori Ohsumi wins 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Researcher's work provided the basis for understanding autophagy, or how cells degrade and recycle their molecular trash
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: awards, nobel prize, autophagy, medicine, physiology
Ohsumi
Credit: Tokyo Institute of Technology
Portrait of Yoshinori Ohsumi, winner of 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.
 
Ohsumi
Credit: Tokyo Institute of Technology

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, 71, a cell biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.”

Autophagy is the process by which cells capture large dysfunctional proteins, aging organelles, and invading pathogens in vesicles and then send them to the lysosome for degradation, said Juleen Zierath, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine in announcing the prize. “Without autophagy our cells won’t survive.”

Dysfunction of the autophagy process is life-threatening from birth through old age. For example, autophagy is disrupted in Alzheimer’s disease, when toxic protein aggregates are not properly discarded. As a consequence drugmakers have continued to eye the pathway as a therapeutic target.

Although researchers had known since the 1960s that cells cleaned up their large cellular garbage by enclosing it in vesicle sacks and sending it to the lysosome for degradation, in the 1990s, when Ohsumi began his work, nobody knew how the system worked, and what machinery was involved, Zierath says.

At the time, “people were not that keen to study how cells got rid of their trash—it was not considered sexy,” says Anne Bertolotti, who studies autophagy at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Cambridge, and who hosted a visit from Ohsumi just a few weeks ago.

2016 Nobel Prizes

C&EN’s coverage of this year's laureates.

  Yoshinori Ohsumi, Physiology or Medicine

  David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz, Physics

   Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J. Fraser Stoddart, and Ben L. Feringa, Chemistry

And don't forget to check out all of C&EN’s coverage of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, including our analysis of what chemistry wins and who’s been nominated.

Ohsumi first noticed that you could induce baker’s yeast cells to produce autophagy vesicles under low nutrient conditions. This observation gave scientists the first method for controlling and studying the process, Bertolotti says. Then, “in a heroic effort, Ohsumi studied mutant yeast under the light microscope, one cell at a time, to figure out which genes were involved,” she adds.

Over the years Ohsumi continued to tease apart the mechanisms of autophagy and to show that similar machinery existed in more complicated organisms, including humans. Notably, he showed that the lysosome wasn’t just a waste dump, it was a recycling plant, Zierath adds. In some cases, discarded components are actually broken down in the lysosome and reused to make new proteins.

“Ohsumi is the father of this field,” Bertolotti says. “It is a really well-deserved prize.”

Ohsumi was in the lab when he received the famous phone call. "I was surprised," he told Adam Smith, chief scientific officer at Nobel Media. Since his original discoveries, autophagy has become a large research field, Ohsumi added. But “even now we have more questions than when I started.”

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
Comments
azaiez ben akacha (Mon Oct 03 08:38:59 EDT 2016)
Un grand bravo pour le biologiste Yoshinori Ohsumi qui a sacré la majeure partie de sa vie à la recherche scientique et qui a pu expliquer les secrets de la cellule!!c'est un travail humanitaire gigantesque encore une fois milles bravo!!!
Prof Ramin Zibaseresht (Mon Oct 03 12:30:33 EDT 2016)
DearOhsumi,
Congratulations!
Well done. Keep it up.
Cheers,
Ramin
Sameen Ahmed Khan (Tue Oct 04 00:36:05 EDT 2016)
Heartiest Congratulations!!!

With warm regards + best wishes

Sameen Ahmed KHAN
Assistant Professor
Department of Mathematics and Sciences
College of Arts and Applied Sciences (CAAS)
Dhofar University
Post Box No. 2509
Postal Code: 211
Salalah
Sultanate of OMAN http://www.du.edu.om/
http://SameenAhmedKhan.webs.com/
http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=hZvL5eYAAAAJ
http://www.scopus.com/authid/detail.url?authorId=8452157800
Sameen Ahmed Khan (Tue Oct 04 00:41:38 EDT 2016)
Heartiest Congratulations!!!

With warm regards + best wishes

Sameen Ahmed KHAN
Assistant Professor
Department of Mathematics and Sciences
College of Arts and Applied Sciences (CAAS)
Dhofar University
Post Box No. 2509
Postal Code: 211
Salalah
Sultanate of OMAN http://www.du.edu.om/
http://SameenAhmedKhan.webs.com/
http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=hZvL5eYAAAAJ
http://www.scopus.com/authid/detail.url?authorId=8452157800
Chiradeep Chakraborty (Physiotherapist) (Tue Oct 04 15:28:00 EDT 2016)
Its a great achievement congratulations sir you are a inspiration for us I am a physiotherapist by profession from India.
Dr. D.V. Gokhale (Thu Oct 06 02:02:01 EDT 2016)
It is really a great achievement of Prof. Yoshinori Ohsumi. He came out with the mechanism of autophagy and nicely demonstrated how cells use their own discarded components thrown out as a waste material in the lysosomes for degradation to generate new cells. Probably his next research would be on how the toxic protein aggregates will be properly discarded and degraded to avoid the Alzheimer's disease. I congratulate Dr. Ohsumi for this great achievement.
Abdul Rasheed Mohammed (Thu Oct 06 06:02:40 EDT 2016)
Heartiest congratulations to you Sir!

Thank you for showing the mankind the natural and most needed repairing center.

Best regards
Abdul Rasheed Mohammed
Wanda Tylicki (Sat Oct 08 12:54:52 EDT 2016)
Thank you for your work, God bless you
Anifa Kamal (Mon Oct 10 08:30:23 EDT 2016)
The world thanking you for your wonderful effort to front line the cell biology which shall lead to found medicine for various life style disorder disease and too cancer itself.

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