Research On 'Self-Eating' Cell Parts Wins Nobel Prize In Medicine

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This photo taken on March 25, 2015 shows Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi speaking during a press conference at the Ministry Of Education in Tokyo. Ohsumi won the Nobel Medicine Prize for his work on autophagy -- a process whereby cells "eat themselves" -- which when disrupted can cause Parkinson's and diabetes. (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

Yoshinori Ohsumi has won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on autophagy, the process by which cells recycle amino acids and other organic compounds. The word means “self eating,” which describes how the cell part known as the lysosome uses enzymes to consume and repurpose defunct proteins.

Dr. Ohsumi’s research on yeast cells fills in a gap in basic knowledge about cell biology and could lead to insights into neurodegenerative disorders like ALS and Parkinson’s disease, as well as Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory syndromes.

Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson talks with Erika Holzbaur, professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania, about the significance of this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine.


Erika Holzbaur, professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. The school tweets @PennMedicine.

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