Dave Knott writes from a report via The Guardian: The 2016 Nobel prize in medicine has been awarded to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi for discoveries on how cells break down and recycle their own components. Ohsumi uncovered "mechanisms for autophagy," a fundamental process in cells that scientists believe can be harnessed to fight cancer and dementia. Autophagy is the body's internal recycling program -- scrap cell components are captured and the useful parts are stripped out to generate energy or build new cells. The process is crucial for preventing cancerous growths, warding off infection and, by maintaining a healthy metabolism, it helps protect against conditions like diabetes. The report adds: "[Ohsumi] said he chose to focus on the cell's waste disposal system, an unfashionable subject at the time, because he wanted to work on something different. By studying the process in yeast cells, Ohsumi identified the main genes involved in autophagy and showed how the proteins they code for come together to build the autophagosome membrane. He later showed that a similar cellular recycling process occurs in human cells -- and that our cells would not survive without it."