A Japanese scientist whose research is focused on how cells gets recycled by the human body was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday.

Yoshinori Ohsumi, 71, is a cell biologist who specializes in "autophagy," described by the 2016 Nobel academy as a ”self eating” process for degrading and recycling cellular components. When autophagy does not occur it has been linked to diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and cancer.

The prize was awarded by the Nobel Assembly at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute. "Intense research is now ongoing to develop drugs that can target autophagy in various diseases," Karolinska said in a statement.

Ohsumi is a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. "As a scientist, I’m extremely honored,” he said in an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK.

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