Why Autophagy research won a Nobel Prize

Why Autophagy research won a Nobel Prize

The process of autophagy was first recognized in the late 1950s and it was thought of as bulk “junk” removal. Then, dedicated scientists did a little more digging and found there is an amazing methodology to the “junk” removal.  It was discovered that there is rhyme and reason for how a cell decides if and when its components should undergo degradation.  Autophagy is rather specific and aids in cell survival by making sure the cell has essential components during times of flux.  Autophagy can be selective (i.e. mitophagy) or non-selective (i.e. starvation-induced).  Using this method, the cell can have non-essential components recycled or send them to onto autophagolysosomes to be degraded.  It is more efficient for a cell to be able to recycle as much as it can, rather than to wait for new proteins to come into the picture.  Autophagy is also crucial for clearing out “junk” such as misfolded or aggregated proteins. Research in autophagy has helped provide a better understanding for how a cell is able to survive even under poor conditions.

Early research in yeast helped identify which genes are involved in the autophagy process. These genes are highly conserved in yeast, plants and mammals- a clear indication to the importance of autophagy in all organisms.1  Current research is always evolving and advancing the understanding and implication of autophagy during normal cell function and in disease states.

Autophagy has a few different steps. First there is induction, followed by the initiation phase, where a double membrane starts forming around components to be removed.  Elongation and completion seal membrane formation around the material that needs to be degraded, this is now known as autophagosome.  Maturation, followed by fusion with lysosome results in the autophagolysosome complex.  The final step is degradation.4,5

Autophagy is involved in many disease states including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging.   Understanding how selective and induced autophagy are regulated could be a crucial key for potential disease prevention or treatment targets.2,3  The 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for autophagy research.  Clearly, the committee recognized the dedication given to this area, which was once considered to be simple bulk garbage disposal.  Thanks to the pioneers in this field we have a much better understanding for how the cell processes material to be degraded and how this process works in several different disease states.
MBL has been supporting autophagy research for over twenty years, and has many highly cited products. Click here to see how MBL International can help you in this prize winning field:

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White Paper: Autophagy research: Current status and future perspectives

Dr. Noboru Mizushima of the University of Tokyo describes the current state of autophagy research and future areas of research and drug discovery in this white paper. Among other topics, he discusses the impact of the discovery of ATG genes in autophagy research, the role of autophagy in diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, as well as the development of therapeutics that target the autophagy pathway.

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Dr. Noboru Mizushima of the University of Tokyo is a leading researcher in autophagy whose work has been published in more than 150 journals. He discovered the ATG12 conjugation system which is a protein that plays an important role in proper autophagy functioning. He has also published research on how autophagy deficient mice have greater incidences of tumor development and Parkinson’s disease. He has also collaborated with Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, the 2016 Nobel prize winner in medicine for his work in the study of autophagy.

Related products: Autophagy Watch and Autophagy Antibody Sampler Kit

ProductProduct CodeDescription
Autophagy Watch8486For Autophagy Flux Assay and LC3 Immunostaining.
Autophagy Ab Sampler Set8485Popular MBL antibodies for autophagy-related proteins are available in a set.

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Originally posted on MBL International.

Why Autophagy research won a Nobel Prize
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