In DepthPhysiology

Nobel honors discoveries in how cells eat themselves

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Science  07 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6308, pp. 20
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6308.20

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As the stench of the streets during a garbage strike quickly drives home, sanitation workers are the unsung heroes of modern cities and towns. Similarly, the cell's garbage collectors are key to health. By performing "autophagy"—literally, self-eating—they degrade or recycle toxic protein aggregates and cell components. This week, the cell biologist who worked out the genetics and mechanics of this process received the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. When Yoshinori Ohsumi, now at the Tokyo Institute of Technology's Frontier Research Center, did his pioneering work in yeast in the early 1990s, his results drew little attention outside cell biology. But in the past 15 years, others have shown that cells' clean-up machinery is crucial to human health.