The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2016 was awarded this month to Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy”.
Autophagy or “self-eat” is a process of cells degrading and recycling their components. This is essential as the body adapts to different conditions. In the 1980’s and 1990’s Ohsumi discovered the set of genes that controls the autophagic process in baker’s yeast and confirmed the same process in human cells.
Autophagy helps rid the body of damaged cells, viruses and bacteria. Disruptions to the autophagic process can cause disease and it is known to be linked to cancer, type 2 diabetes and neurological diseases. Drugs are being researched that use autophagy to treat these diseases.
With an aging population prone to neurological disease and workers and children riddled with type 2 diabetes and cancers, any advances that can help understand and potentially cure these conditions is vital for Mexico.