• Kyodo

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Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi, who won this year’s Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his study on cell recycling, encouraged young people Wednesday to pursue fundamental questions, however “naive” they may appear.

The 71-year-old honorary professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology made the remarks at a news conference at the Karolinska Institute, home of the Nobel Assembly, ahead of the prize award ceremony.

He also said he is nervous about the series of events that await him in the days ahead, culminating in the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony on Saturday, but added he is looking forward to them.

Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel prize for elucidating autophagy, an intracellular process that degrades and recycles proteins. His discoveries are believed to have opened up the possibility of new treatments for illnesses including cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Autophagy, Greek for “self-eating,” has been known for over 50 years but its fundamental importance in physiology and medicine was only recognized after Ohsumi’s “paradigm-shifting” research in the 1990s, according to the institute.

Ohsumi said in a previous news conference that the starting point of his research was doing “what others don’t.”

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