We will write a custom Research Paper on Autophagy Mechanisms: Biology and Medicine Breakthrough specifically for you
301 certified writers online
The Japanese molecular biologist was recognized for his work on autophagy, i.e., how the cell recycles its own composing elements. The description of the discovery is outlined below, as well as a brief explanation of its significance and the influence it might exert on the development of science while benefitting humankind.
Autophagy is a process where the cell digests and recycles some of its components. It is a key element in many physiological processes that eliminate the redundant cells in order for the new ones to appear. Prior to Ohsumi’s research, the 1960s saw the discovery of the cell’s capacity to transfer its contents in the enclosed membranes to the lysosome, where the contents are recycled.
Description of the Discovery
Autophagy processes were initially studied in the 1960s by Christian de Duve, who eventually received a Nobel Prize in 1974 for his research of the functional and structural cell organization. In 1995, Ohsumi conducted experiments by cloning yeast cells and mammalian cells. He discovered fifteen autophagy genes in yeast. The function of the encoded proteins was thereby clarified, and it was established that the same autophagy mechanisms work for both yeast cells and human cells.
Due to the research conducted by Ohsumi, it is now known that autophagy mechanisms play a crucial role in the cellular reaction to various kinds of stress, including starvation, as well as in the aging processes). The described mechanisms are also crucial for the cellular homeostasis, the differentiation of cells, and other biological processes that necessitate a considerable amount of cytoplasm. Autophagy’s significance for the protection of cells was emphasized, as well as its capacity to counteract infections and strengthen the overall immune system. The latter is called xenophagy and it is crucial for fighting the injuring organisms, boosting the immune responses, and preventing the spread of infections.
Significance and Impact of the Discovery
Even though autophagy mechanisms were partially studied by de Duve in the 1960s, they remained poorly understood until now. Ohsumi’s experiments with yeast and mammalian cells shed new light on the matter. Due to his research, the significance of autophagy in human physiology and disease prevention is clear. The results of Ohsumi’s experiments provide a basis for further research into disease prevention by means of targeting autophagy mechanisms.
Due to Ohsumi’s research, we know that in the autophagy processes, the membrane structure develops in the cytoplasm, which is followed by sequestering the elements of cytoplasm (2). The emerging structure is enclosed and sealed into a double-membrane formation, i.e. autophagosome. The results of the research demonstrated that Atg proteins are involved in the process of autophagosome construction (2). It was also demonstrated that the vesicles of Atg9 protein become a part of the autophagosome membrane.
Moreover, Ohsumi’s discoveries revealed that in the case of selective autophagy, autophagosome formations select certain cell contents that are to be recycled (3). The contents that are to be degraded are delivered to lysosomes in mammals and vacuoles in yeast and plants (3). Selective autophagy is demonstrated to be highly significant since it also degrades intracellular pathogens, as well as certain types of damaged organelles (3).
It was established that autophagy mechanisms are linked to the onset of many diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes. Thus, the significance of Ohsumi’s discovery is clear. The importance that autophagy mechanisms have in the processes of disease prevention and aging ensures that there is a possibility of developing new treatments and prevention methods. Moreover, mutations that occur in the discovered genes linked to autophagy mechanisms might indicate the possibility of a congenital disease.
Certain irregularities in autophagy genes have also been associated with cancer and the development of certain neurological conditions. Research is now underway to clarify the potential correlation with various diseases.
The Nobel Committee called Ohsumi’s research “paradigm-shifting” because it is a huge step forward in the fields of biology, medicine, and disease prevention. His discoveries have changed our understanding of the cell and its recycling capacity. A study by Ahn et al. suggests that autophagy mechanisms play an important role in tumor suppression processes (1). The implications of Ohsumi’s discovery are deemed to be significant in the field of biology and medicine.
Yoshinori Ohsumi’s research has a considerable impact on the development of biology and medicine because it changes the way we understand the autophagy mechanisms in human cells, as well as the processes of disease pathogenesis. The results are of utmost importance since they are promising in respect of medical treatments and preventative care of many diseases, including neuropathy and cancer. The results of Ohsumi’s work should provide a basis for further research and development of new treatments and prevention methods.
- Ahn, J.-S., Ann, E.-J., Kim, M.-Y., Yoon, J.-H., Lee, H.-J., Jo, E.-H., Lee, K., Lee, J.-S., & Park, H.-S. (2016). Autophagy negatively regulates tumor cell proliferation through phosphorylation dependent degradation of the Notch1 intracellular domain. Web.
- Suzuki, S. W., Yamamoto, H., Oikawa, Y., Kondo-Kakuta, C., Kimura, Y., Hirano, H., & Ohsumi, Y. (2015). Atg13 HORMA domain recruits Atg9 vesicles during autophagosome formation. Web.
- Nakatogawa, H., & Ohsumi, Y. (2014). Autophagy: Close contact keeps out the uninvited. Web.