Japanese microbiologist Yoshinori Ohsumi on Monday won the 2016 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his work on cell autophagy, a process that helps the body remove unwanted proteins.

Ohsumi, 71, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, is credited with discovering the mechanisms that allow cells to break down and recycle unwanted components. They enclose the item in a sack and then transport it to a recycling unit known as a lysosome for destruction.

Such knowledge may be invaluable in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer's and other diseases.