The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 2016 has been awarded this year to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries on the mechanisms of autophagy.
Autophagy is when a cell destroys its own contents and effectively recycles itself. This mechanism has been very difficult to capture, and therefore little progress has been made in understanding the core physiology behind this concept.
Ohsumi’s work that has been going on since the late 1980s means that he has managed to identify the first genes essential for autophagy in a human cell, and outline the cascade of proteins and protein complexes that lead to the autophagy as a response to external stresses faced by a cell such as starvation and viral infection.
This news should be insightful to anyone doing Medicine, Biological Sciences, Biomedicine or Biochemistry. All the students of the mentioned subjects can look at how gene encoding works, why a cell would want to destroy itself, and looking in deeper detail into the internal compartments of a cell. Given that the initial experiments were carried out by Ohsumi on yeast cells, students can look at why yeast cells are commonly used as the model cells for cell behaviour, and how they are similar to human cells.
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