The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young.
The announcement was made in Stockholm today and is the first of the prizes to be made known by the Nobel Prize Committee.
The trio are being awarded for their discovery of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.
A circadian rhythm is a sleep/wake cycle of the human body. Or more technically, it is the 24 hour internal clock running between your sleep and awake times.
The scientists were able to establish how man’s biological clock helps to regulate sleep patterns, feeding behavior, hormone release and blood pressure.
Using fruit flies as a model organism, this year’s Nobel Laureates isolated a gene that controls the daily biological rhythm.
“Circadian rhythms are common to all organisms, from very simple single-celled algae through to ourselves. It’s a basic physiological process of great importance”, says Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, who shared the Nobel prize in 2001 for research on the cell cycle.
“What we have here are three individuals, one of whom was my colleague at Rockefeller, Mike Young, who used fruit flies to identify genes that when mutated alter the circadian rhythm.
“It’s important for the basic understanding of life. Every living organism on this planet responds to the sun. All plant and also animal behaviour is determined by the light-dark cycle.
“We on this planet are slaves to the sun.
“We are increasingly becoming aware that there are implications for human disease. With the modern technological age we get more and more divorced from the circadian rhythm, as we are able to travel across time zones and disturb our circadian rhythm.
“This is leading to conditions like jet lag which are disturbing and may in turn also lead to other consequences that we don’t fully understand about the human condition.”
The Nobel Prize for Physics, Chemistry, and Literature will be announced from Tuesday to Thursday while the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 will be announced on Friday October 6.
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Image Credits: Nobel Prize