OREANDA-NEWS. This year's Nobel Prize for Phyiology or Medicine has been awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, a cell biologist at the professor in Tokyo Institute of Technology's Frontier Research Center, for his work on autophagy, the process in which cells degrade and recycle cellular components.

"Ohsumi's discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content," a press release by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute (KI) says. "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."

"This is an excellent decision," biochemist Volker Haucke of the Leibniz Institute of Molecular Pharmacology in Berlin, Germany said at a meeting this morning in Berlin where scientists watched the announcement live. “With Ohsumi, they have awarded the prize to a scientist who investigated a phenomenon in yeast that was seen as a side phenomenon, but that turned out to be central to molecular medicine," Haucke said. "It's very well deserved."

Ohsumi, who won the Kyoto Prize for basic research in 2012, was expected to give a press conference in Tokay later today.