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Biological clock scientists win 2017 Nobel Prize

  • Published at 04:56 pm October 2nd, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:30 am October 3rd, 2017
Biological clock scientists win 2017 Nobel Prize
US geneticists Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young were awarded the Nobel Medicine Prize Monday for shedding light on the biological clock that governs the sleep-wake cycles of most living things. The team’s work revealed the role of genes in setting the “circadian clock” which regulates sleep and eating patterns, hormones and body temperature, the Nobel Assembly said. “Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronised with the Earth’s revolutions.” All life on Earth is tuned to the rotation of our planet. Scientists have long known that living organisms, including humans, have an internal timekeeper that helps them anticipate and adapt to the rhythm of the day. Hall, 72, Rosbash, 73, and Young, 68, “were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings,” the Nobel jury said. The circadian clock is what causes jetlag – which happens when our internal clock and external environment move out of sync as we change time zones. It also regulates sleep, which is critical for normal brain function. Circadian dysfunction has been linked to depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive function, memory formation and some neurological diseases.

Improve human health

Studies have indicated that a chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and circadian clock – irregular shift work for example – may be associated with an increased risk for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders and inflammation. Scientists are working hard on methods to alter the rhythm of errant clocks as a means to “improve human health,” said the Nobel team. The trio will share the prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor about $1.1m.

Literature, peace prizes

On Tuesday, the physics prize laureates will be revealed, followed by those for chemistry on Wednesday. The literature prize will be announced on Thursday, the peace prize on Friday, and the economics prize will wrap things up on October 9.