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Deciphering cell’s recycling machinery earns Nobel

Yoshinori Ohsumi honored for studies of autophagy

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2:45pm, October 3, 2016
Yoshinori Ohsumi

PRIZED CELLS   Yoshinori Ohsumi, a biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, won this year’s Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his work uncovering how cells break down old materials — a process critical for keeping cells healthy.

Figuring out the nuts and bolts of the cell’s recycling machinery has earned the 2016 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology has received the prize for his work on autophagy, a method for breaking down and recycling large pieces of cellular junk, such as clusters of damaged proteins or worn-out organelles.

Keeping this recycling machinery in good working condition is crucial for cells’ health (SN: 3/26/11, p. 18). Not enough recycling can cause cellular trash to build up and lead to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Too much recycling, on the other hand, has been linked to cancer.

“It’s so exciting that Ohsumi has received the Nobel Prize, which he no question deserved,” says biologist

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