Ohsumi, Yoshinori

Ohsumi, Yoshinori,

1945–, Japanese biologist, Ph.D. Univ. of Tokyo, 1974. He was a researcher at the Univ. of Tokyo from 1977 to 1996, when he joined the National Institute for Basic Biology in Japan. In 2009 he also became affiliated with the Graduate Univ. for Advanced Studies and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he continued to serve as professor following his retirement in 2014. Ohsumi was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries relating to mechanisms for autophagy. Autophagy, which enables cells to maintain their health, is an internal cellular process by which cellular components and infectious agents are degraded and recycled; in the process an autophagosome engulfs the material and then merges with a lysosome, which degrades it. His findings resulted from his studies in the 1980s and 90s of baker's yeast, in which he identified the genes essential to autophagy. Understanding these mechanisms, which are nearly the same in humans, helps explain diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's, which have been linked to disruptions in the process of autophagy, as well as the body's ability to adapt to starvation.