Yoshinori Ohsumi wins Nobel prize in medicine for work on autophagy

The Nobel prize in medicine has been awarded to a Japanese cell biologist for discoveries on how cells break down and recycle their own components.

 

Yoshinori Ohsumi, 71, will receive 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.

 

Autophagy is the body’s internal recycling programme – scrap cell components are captured and the useful parts are stripped out to generate energy or build new cells. The process is crucial for preventing cancerous growths, warding off infection and, by maintaining a healthy metabolism, it helps protect against conditions like diabetes.

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