Speed Reads


3 Americans share Nobel Prize in Medicine for work unlocking the body's circadian rhythm

On Monday, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to three Americans — Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young — for their discoveries on the biological clock that "explain how plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth's revolutions."

The three scientists, studying fruit flies, discovered a gene that controls the body's daily biological rhythm, the Nobel committee said, then "they showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day," subsequently discovering other protein components that makes the biological clock function autonomously. "With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day," the Nobel committee said. "The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature, and metabolism. Our wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock," and thanks to the trio's research, we now know that "chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases."

"Since the seminal discoveries by the three laureates, circadian biology has developed into a vast and highly dynamic research field, with implications for our health and wellbeing," the Nobel committee said. You can read more about Hall, Rosbash, and Young and their work on the circadian rhythm at the Nobel institute.