London: Three American scientists have won the the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm, the prize committee said in a statement on Monday.
The scientists — Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young — were able to peek inside the human biological clock and elucidate its inner workings.
“Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronised with the Earth’s revolutions,” said the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, in a statement.
Using fruit flies as a model organism, the scientists isolated a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm.
Their findings revealed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day.
The paradigm-shifting discoveries by the laureates established key mechanistic principles for the biological clock that helps to regulate sleep patterns, feeding behaviour, hormone release, blood pressure, and body temperature.
Chronic misalignments in this clock, as a result of our lifestyle and our external environment, is associated with increased risk for various diseases as well as the temporary disorientation of jet lag that travellers experience while shifting between different time zones.
Hall was born in New York, Rosbash in Kansas City, and they both worked at Brandeis University. Michael Young was born in Miami and worked at Rockefeller University.