Like a busy city, a cell works better if it can dispose of and recycle its garbage. Now a Japanese scientist has won the Nobel Prize in medicine for showing how that happens.

The research may pay off in treatments for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes.

Yoshinori Ohsumi, 71, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, was cited Monday for “brilliant experiments” that illuminated autophagy, in which cells gobble up damaged or worn-out pieces of themselves. Autophagy means “self-eating.”

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