Three American scientists have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for unraveling secrets of how the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm works — a discovery that will help doctors understand the mechanism behind sleep patterns, hormone release, blood pressure and body temperature. Also Read - National Science Day: Top 5 AR apps available on Apple's App Store to learn scienceAlso Read - Discovery Plus App: Discovery launches new app with Rajnikanth and Bear Grylls
Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were able to peek inside the human biological clock and elucidate its inner workings, the Nobel Prize committee said in a statement here on Monday. Also Read - New ultrafast camera takes 1 trillion frames per second
The winners will share a prize of 825,000 British pounds.
“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 Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet.
The research conducted on fruit flies isolated the “period” gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm. This gene contained instructions for making a protein called “PER”. As levels of “PER” increased, it turned off its own genetic instructions.
“PER” protein was found to accumulate in the cell during the night but degraded during the day. Thus, “PER” protein levels oscillate over a 24-hour cycle, in synchrony with the circadian rhythm. ALSO READ: Smartphones can help treat sleep disorders while people are awake: Researchers
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 travelers experience while shifting between different time zones.
The scientists also discovered a gene called “timeless” and Young found one called “doubletime”, both the genes affecting the stability of “PER”.
Hall was born in New York, Rosbash in Kansas City, and they both worked at Brandeis University. In 2002, Hall became associated with the University of Maine.
Michael Young was born in Miami and worked at Rockefeller University in New York. ALSO READ: Children using smartphones for a long time are vulnerable to dry-eye disease: Study
The Nobel prize in Medicine last year was won by Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, for discovering the process called “autophagy” in which cells destroy and recycle cellular components.