The Nobel Prize Committee’s press release reads:
“Ohsumi’s discoveries have led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how a cell processes its contents. His discoveries have opened new ways of understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy for a large number of physiological processes, such as adaptation to starvation and response to an infection.”
Autophagy is the process of utilizing and recycling unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components—the so-called cellular rubbish which accumulates in cells. The term “autophagy” originates from two Greek words which summarily mean “self-eating.” Autophagy is intrinsic to living organisms, including those of human beings. Thanks to autophagy cells get rid of excess parts, while an organism gets rid of unnecessary cells.
Autophagy becomes especially intensive when an organism is under stress, for example, when it fasts. In this case a cell produces energy using its internal resources, that is, cellular rubbish, including pathogenic bacteria.
The Nobel Prize winner’s discovery indicates that abstaining from food and keeping fasts is wholesome—the body truly cleans itself. This is confirmed by the Nobel Prize Committee.
According to Ohsumi’s colleagues, autophagy protects organisms from premature senility. This process even probably rejuvenates organisms by creating new cells, removing defective proteins and damaged intracellular organelles from them, thus maintaining them in good condition.