A Japanese cell biologist, Yoshinori Ohsumi adorned with Noble Prize for his work in Physiology or Medicine. The event happened on Monday, where he was announced as Noble Prize winner for his findings on how body cells recycle or remanufacture their content. The process is called as autophagy, which is a Greek term and known as “self-eating.” So, the discovery is about self-eating cells in our bodies.
The process is considered very important as at the time starvation, the cells crack the proteins and other not so essential components in order to use them for energy. Not only this, the autophagy process is also used for destroying attacking bacteria and viruses and sends them for recycling. Hence, autophagy is also a process to get rid of unhealthy and damaged structures. In diseases like cancer, immunological diseases and other infectious diseases, mainly the autophagy process is affected. Also, any sort of interruptions in the process plays a major role in ageing process.
But, how does this miracle process of autophagy actually happens and performs itself was far from our knowledge. What kinds of genes are responsible? And the role of process in regular development and diseases, all these things were unknown till the time Dr. Ohsumi started his study on yeast.
Yoshinori Ohsumi Adorned with Noble Prize in Medicine for Work on Autophagy
Dr. Ohsumi opened the pathways for many other researchers around the world by his process of study which is evaluative for cells to survive and living a healthy life. His study on yeast led him to discovery of autophagy genes and the metabolic pathways inside yeast, which are also followed inside larger organisms like humans. So, the changes in the genes can cause diseases.
Without him, the whole field doesn’t exist,” mentioned Seungmin Hwang, an assistant professor in the department of pathology at the University of Chicago. Further he added, ““He set up the field.”
If we talk about his early life, born in 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan, Dr. Ohsumi got Ph.D. degree from the University of Tokyo. He was struggling for his own path, which didn’t seem to be ephemeral. So, he began with his study in chemistry but hardly found any scope for new improvements and additions.
As a result, he switched himself to molecular biology. But, he could not produce an impressive Ph.D thesis, it became hard for him to find a job. Thus, he was advised for a postdoctoral position at Rockerfeller University in New York. There he was to study in vitro fertilization in mice.
In 2012 he mentioned to Journal of Cell Biology that, “I grew very frustrated.” Thus, he changed on to study the replication of DNA in yeast. This work of him landed him position of junior professor at the University of Tokyo. There with the help of a microscope he started checking at sacks in yeast where cell components were degraded. This work of him at the age of 43, led him towards the discoveries because of which he is the Noble Prize Winner.
After that, he moved to the National Institute for Basic Biology, in Okazaki and since the year 2009, he is holding the position of professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
“He is a quiet man,” said Dr. Beth Levine, director of autophagy research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. But he also is quietly daring.
Dr. Besth Levine, director of autophagy research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas says, “He is a quiet man.” But we must say, he is equally daring for not just chasing the famous filed of researches to get the popularity and instead followed his own path.
As he said here,” Unfortunately, these days, at least in Japan, young scientists want to get a stable job, so they are afraid to take risks,” “Most people decide to work on the most popular field because they think that is the easiest way to get a paper published.”
“I am not very competitive, so I always look for a new subject to study, even if it is not so popular. If you start from some sort of basic, new observation, you will have plenty to work on.”
Further he says to British Newspaper, “As a boy, the Nobel Prize was a dream, but after starting my research, it was out of my picture.” “I don’t feel comfortable competing with many people, and instead I find it more enjoyable doing something nobody else is doing. In a way, that’s what science is all about, and the joy of finding something inspires me.”
Noble Prize Winner Yoshinori Ohsumi Story
The story of Yoshinori Ohsumi Adorned with Noble Prize is none less than inspiring for all of us. Among all that imbroglio of his life, he just didn’t chase after the fame and decided to do what gave him satisfaction, no matter how unpopular the field was. Often, taking risk with least attended areas take us towards the Excellency.