Nobel Prize In Medicine Split Between Three Americans
Three scientists win Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering genes that regulate the body’s clock
This year’s Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to three scientists who discovered the genes that control the circadian rhythm, or the body’s natural day-night cycle. All three winners are American, and all three based their work on fruit flies.
Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey Hall collaborated at Brandeis University to isolate the “period gene” that is key to regulating the circadian rhythm. This gene encodes for a protein that builds up at night and then degrades during the day; different levels of the protein affect how our body adapts to different times of the day. The third winner, Michael Young of Rockefeller University, worked independently. He discovered the “timeless gene”, which produces proteins needed to stop the activity of the period gene. These discoveries allow us to “peek inside our biological clock,” according to the Nobel Prize committee. In humans, the circadian rhythm has been linked to the workings of our metabolism, jet lag, and the sleep cycle. Did you know that it also exists in plants? where it affects the growth rate of crops, for instance.
Every living organism on this planet, responds to the sun. All plant and animal behavior is determined by the light-dark cycle. Living on this planet makes us all slaves to the sun. The circadian clock is embedded in our mechanisms of working, our metabolism, it’s embedded everywhere, it’s a real core feature for understanding life.
WHAT IS CIRCADIAN RHYTHM?
If you’ve ever noticed that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank. What is it, exactly? Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.
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