Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, it was announced this month. Ohsumi is a cell biologist. His experiments with yeast cells helped scientists understand autophagy. Autophagy comes from the Greek words for “self-eating.” Cells use this process to take apart and reuse their contents. Ohsumi’s work helped scientists understand how this process works, including what can happen when it goes wrong. Ohsumi also identified which genes are involved. His work could help scientists understand illnesses such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. These illnesses may all be linked to errors in autophagy or mutations in these genes.