As weeks go, this is a pretty big one for the world of science. It's that time again for the Nobel committee in Stockholm to announce its winners for the world’s most sought-after prizes in scientific and cultural advancements.
First up, today they announced the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Yoshinori Ohsumi of Tokyo Institute of Technology for “his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy”.
Autophagy, which basically means “self-eating”, is the physiological process that helps cells tidy up their damaged organelles and chuck out their misfolded proteins – essentially housekeeping to keep the cells healthy.
The Japanese microbiologist has played a key role in understanding the mechanisms of this process. His work has managed to locate the genes that code for autophagy, and how errors in this code can be linked to diseases such as Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Along with the honor of winning the highly prestigious prize, he will also receive 8 million Swedish kronor ($940,000) in prize money.
The Nobel Laureates are selected by four institutions. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences select for the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry, the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden decides the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Swedish Academy chooses the Nobel Prize in Literature, and a Committee of five people elected by the Norwegian Parliament vote for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Unfortunately, you can’t nominate yourself and the names of the nominees cannot be revealed until 50 years later.
Tomorrow is also a big one for the scientific community, with the announcement of the physics prize. On Wednesday they will announce the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and Friday it’s the Nobel peace prize. Monday is the economic sciences award and finally, on October 29 it’s the literature prize.
But for now – congratulations, Professor Ohsumi!