American trio win Nobel Prize for Medicine over circadian rhythms work

Nobel 2017

It awarded the $1.1 million Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Jeffrey C. Hall and Michael Rosbash, who worked together at Brandeis University in MA, and Michael W. Young of Rockefeller University in NY.

"These investigators were the first to discover a gene that controlled circadian behavior", Ray said. "Their discoveries explain how plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth's revolutions".

Most living organisms anticipate and adapt to daily changes in the environment.

The American scientists who have been working on this will share Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Robash and Michael W. Young's Nobel Prize in medicine.

In 1994 Young discovered a second clock gene, which he named "timeless", that helps control the period gene's activity. "I was woken up out of deep sleep and it was shocking", Rosbash, 73, told Reuters.

"When the land line rings at that hour, normally it's because someone died", Rosbash said. "My wife said: "Please start to breathe".

"I really had some trouble getting my shoes on this morning. You know, I'd go and pick up the shoes and then I'd realise I needed socks and then I'd realise I needed to put my trousers on first". "This is great recognition for the field of circadian rhythms that are intimately linked to our health and disease, including diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease".

For instance, jet lag is a effect of a temporary mismatch between the inner clock and the environment that occurs when people travel across several time zones. "It's the breadth of application of biological rhythm research that makes it so fascinating", he said.

To determine how this gene worked, the three scientists who won the Nobel Prize used fruit flies to isolate period and realized that the protein encoded by this gene, PER, fluctuates over a 24-hour cycle.

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The scientists then identified more workings of this machinery, exposing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell.

The body clock so precisely controls our body to match day and night that disrupting it can have profound implications.

Researchers studying chronobiology have also found that eating at night can be extra problematic for health, since our bodies aren't primed to cope with the glucose load from the food in the evening.

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Hall and Rosbash, who were working as collaborators at Brandeis University near Boston, as well as Young, who was based at the Rockefeller University in NY, where he is now a professor of genetics, made a decision to dig deeper. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Texas in Austin in 1975. He is now retired.

Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash isolated a section of DNA called the period gene, which had been implicated in the circadian rhythm.

Announcing the winners in Stockholm on 2 October, the prize committee said the discoveries acted as a good reminder of the importance of keeping a healthy sleep pattern, in keeping with the natural patterns of day and night.

"The field had always been speculating on this Nobel Prize", Frank A.J.L. Scheer, associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and director of the medical chronobiology program, Brigham and Women's Hospital, said.

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