Nobel Prize in Medicine 2017 For Research On Body’s Internal Clock

by Julia Samuel on  October 3, 2017 at 4:04 PM General Health News
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Highlights
  • Three Americans won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discoveries about the body's biological clock.
  • Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young won the prize for their work on finding genetic mechanisms behind circadian rhythms.
  • The findings might help unravel the reason for jetlag, insomnia.
Scientists from the US, Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young won the 2017 Nobel prize for medicine for unravelling molecular mechanisms that control our internal body clocks.
Nobel Prize in Medicine 2017 For Research On Body’s Internal Clock
Nobel Prize in Medicine 2017 For Research On Body’s Internal Clock

Mr. Rosbash and Mr. Hall, both at Brandeis, along with Mr. Young isolated the "period gene" in fruit flies. Mr. Hall and Mr. Rosbash found that a protein encoded by the gene accumulated during the night and degraded during daytime. A decade later, Mr. Young discovered another "clock gene."

The findings help explain how people experience jet lag when their internal circadian rhythms get out of sync, while also having wider implications for disorders ranging from insomnia to depression to heart disease.

Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythm (also known as the sleep/wake cycle or the body clock) is a biological process that follows an internal cycle of roughly 24 hours.

Circadian rhythms are our daily activity cycle and include body's natural cycles that control appetite, energy, mood, sleep and libido.

When functioning properly, the human circadian rhythm will respond to the morning light of a new day. Light stimulates the body to produce cortisol, serotonin, other hormones and neurotransmitters that wakes up a person and cause the blood pressure and body temperature to rise.

At sunset, the body receives another of nature's cues and responds to dusk and ultimately the night's darkness. As the sun goes down, the body produces and secretes the hormone melatonin, and blood pressure drops as the body prepares for and eventually falls off to sleep. 

Why Should We Know About the Body's Clock?

Based on the circadian cycles, new treatments can be developed to establish the best times to take medicines, and there is an increased focus on the importance of healthy sleeping patterns.

"This ability to prepare for the regular daily fluctuations is crucial for all life forms," said Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Karolinska Institute Nobel Committee.

"This year's Nobel prize laureates have been studying this fundamental problem and solved the mystery of how an inner clock in our bodies can anticipate daily fluctuations between night and day to optimise our behavior and physiology,"he added.

"Our well-being is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock, for example when we travel across several time zones and experience 'jet lag'," the Nobel statement said.

"There are also indications that chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner time keeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases."

Source: Medindia

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