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2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Is Awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi [pdf] (nobelprize.org)
82 points by sounddetective on Oct 3, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

I wish they'd rename the prize to "Nobel Prize in Fundamental Biology". Medicine is important but this is clearly a fundamental biology discovery.

Yes and no. You can argue that genetics of autophagy are fundamental but it is clear that the prize is being given in recognition of the fact that this led to better understanding of neurodegenerative disorders and so on. For better or worse, the Nobel doesn't really go to discoveries that don't have applications somehow.

It's disappointing that the "prize is being giving in recognization ... better understanding of neurodegenerative diseases".

My point is that I think the prize itself should honor scientific achievements, rather than medical ones, and that this discovery, on its own, stands as a fundamental biological understanding. That it helped understand neurodegenerative disorders is ancillary, and unecessary to justify the prize.

Alfred Nobel apparently disagreed, and it's still the interest on the money bequeathed by his will that funds the prize. So it's unlikely that the name will be changed.

Neither kind of restriction is applied to the physics or chemistry prize (they do not require some sort of nebulous "medical benefit" to qualify).

I'm not talking about the medical benefit, I'm talking about the name specifically. His will stated that there should be prizes for chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine.

This leans more to the physiology side of the prize I believe.

right I'm saying that 'biology' is a more appropriate term than physiology.

Except it's not. Autophagy as a process happens at the cellular level but the whole reason it's important is because it has emergent ramifications for the entire living organism, impacting on metabolism, senescence, carcinogenesis and a number of other endpoints that operate at organismal scale. Your characterisation of this as "fundamental biology" obscures this emergence.

Appropriateness aside, I think the real reason we don't have a Nobel for Biology is probably a result of the fact that Alfred Nobel cared more about the pursuit of knowledge for the betterment of the human condition, rather than for its own sake. I imagine he learned the limitations of the latter approach the hard way through personal experience considering his most (in)famous invention...

People on my thread are missing my point: I meant the prize should be renamed to be more general; I'm not criticizing the categorization of autophagy as physiology at all.

Why? This is clearly physiology (how living systems function). And physiology is a field of biology. Biology also includes things like the dynamics of ecosystems and classification of organisms.

Physiology is a more descriptive term for this work. You could argue this is "cell biology", but that's just a claim that these fields are exclusive of each other; much modern physiological work is now understanding the underlying molecular processes (maybe it is molecular biology?).

His work on molecular mechanisms has brought better understanding of higher level processes in the body and traditional "physiologic" mechanisms.

This specific prize awards something which is physiology.

I meant that the prize itself should be renamed to biology because physiology is-a biology and the prize often is awarded to things that are biology rather than medicine or physiology which are highly specific.

The physiology/fundamental biology is the area that needs /deserves the academic praise and where the public support and attention will do the most good. The application of that information by Pharmaceutical companies and physicians is often (not always) much more routine and intellectually incremental. This ia a great choice for the prize. I fully acknowledge that I'm very biased as a 'scientist type'.

In case anyone is interested in the personal implications of this, this is part the mechanism by which intermittent fasting gains it's health benefits. People have fasted for 16-48 hours and gained benefits through history but what is happening in the body is really ketosis + autophagy. Most people in the modern world eat too frequently to benefit from autophagy, but men (16 hours of fasting) and women (14 hours of fasting) can both benefit from the 3-4x faster cell recycling and potential life extension properties. More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autophagy

Please, everyone in the IT/CS world, ridiculous health "benefit" claims are in fact the origin of the term "snake oil." There is no accepted guidance from the biomedical community regarding fasting that draws a link to autophagy. Please keep your completely unscientific and unfounded health "benefit" claims to yourself.

It seems as though many of your historical posts are similarly angry "source-your-claims" posts. Here is an article entitled "Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy": https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20534972/

Thank you for stalking. The paper you cite is preclinical work in mice, and the mechanistic association between starvation conditions and autophagy induction were already well understood before this paper. (That was, in fact, the Nobel-winning work on which you commented.) Any consequential claims of autophagy are unsupported by data in that paper, even in mice. The claim that autophagy has net "health benefits" or "life extension properties" in humans is completely unsupported and not something on which there is professional medical guidance.

HN is replete with medical and health claims that should not be propagated by responsible people. Face it: IT professionals don't have expertise in this area, but that doesn't apparently stop you from having opinions and propagating them authoritatively as truth. If you'd like to do original research in this area, please do, but don't spread misinformation as if it's factual.

>"3-4x faster cell recycling"

What is "cell recycling"?

Most of the news outlets reporting on this are using that term, which must have appeared in a press release. I think it's just a layman-friendly version of "autophagy".

Thanks, your assessment agrees with mine for whatever that is worth.

Yes. It is a literal description of autophagy.

Not to CRISPR - again!...

While CRISPR is an incredible technology with plenty of current exposure, the Nobel Prize in Medicine tends to move slowly; often discoveries that first debuted 20 years ago are only finally recognized. CRISPR will have its day in the Nobel sun, but unlikely in this decade.

The Nobel Prizes in science are generally awarded a few decades after the fact. That gives enough time for the impact of the work to become clear.

Very true. It took 8 years for Craig Mello and Andrew Fire to be awarded for RNAi (published 1998, awarded 2006 -- and that was considered fast). CRISPR as a gene engineering tool isn't even that old yet, so we've got a few years.

Counter example: yamanaka

The Nobel committee is probably waiting for a resolution to a patent conflict regarding who invented it first, before they give it to crispr, see http://www.nature.com/news/bitter-fight-over-crispr-patent-h...

Whenever Lior Pachter points his guns it's time to get out the popcorn....


Don't give up hope, yet. CRISPR could be awarded for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The Ribozyme discovery was a Chemistry Nobel [1]. And, yes, Nobels take decades to come to fruition.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribozyme

I think we'll wait until a practical application sees adoption before handing out Nobels.

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