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Current Affairs: Japan’s Yoshinori Ohsumi wins 2016 Nobel Prize for Medicine

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
2016 நோபல் பரிசு - மருத்துவம் - குறிப்புகள்
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Japan’s Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms for Autophagy

2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

  • This year's Nobel Laureate discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.  

  • The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning "self", and phagein, meaning "to eat". Thus,autophagy denotes "self eating". This concept emerged during the 1960's, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation. Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant that little was known until, in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990's, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker's yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to elucidate the underlying mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in our cells.

  • Ohsumi's discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.


  • Autophagy has been known for over 50 years but its fundamental importance in physiology and medicine was only recognized after Yoshinori Ohsumi's paradigm-shifting research in the 1990's. For his discoveries, he is awarded this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
Yoshinori Ohsumi

  • Yoshinori Ohsumi was born 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan. He received a Ph.D. from University of Tokyo in 1974. After spending three years at Rockefeller University, New York, USA, he returned to the University of Tokyo where he established his research group in 1988. He is since 2009 a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

About The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

  • The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Awarded to 211 Nobel Laureates since 1901
  • Alfred Nobel had an active interest in medical research. Through Karolinska Institutet, he came into contact with Swedish physiologist Jöns Johansson around 1890. Johansson worked in Nobel's laboratory in Sevran, France during a brief period the same year. Physiology or medicine was the third prize area Nobel mentioned in his will.

  • The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Facts on Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine

  • 107 - Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine have been awarded between 1901 and 2016.
  • 39 - Medicine Prizes have been given to one Laureate only.
  • 12 -women have been awarded the Medicine Prize so far.
  • 32 - years was the age of the youngest Medicine Laureate ever, Frederick G. Banting, who was awarded the 1923 Medicine Prize for the discovery of insulin.
  • 87 - years was the age of the oldest Medicine Laureate ever, Peyton Rous, when he was awarded the Medicine Prize in 1966 for his discovery of tumour-inducing viruses.
  • 58 - is the average age of the Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine the year they were awarded the prize.