Free Press Journal

Nobel prize 2017 in medicine goes to discoveries that unlocked sleep secrets


Nobel prize winner

The Nobel Prizes established by Swedish inventor Alfred Novel in 1895 recognizes achievements by people who contribute to academic, cultural and scientific advances. Recently, the Nobel committee kicked off its 2017 season by awarding the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to three American scientists for their discoveries of the way circadian rhythm -the body clock – works.

The circadian rhythm is the intimately related to our health and well-being. It is the reason why we sleep at night or why our body functions in a particular way. The US scientists – Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young – used fruit flies to isolate a gene that dictates the biological clock ticking away inside all living organisms. The Nobel committee was quoted saying that the findings had vast implications for our health and well-being.

Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash working at Brandeis University started with the experiments on the fruit fly in 1984, while Michael Young working at Rockefeller University independently isolated one of the genes called period. Hall and Rosbash discovered that the protein encoded by the period gene builds up during the day and degrades overnight. However, Young teased out two genes called timeless and double time. Later, the trio discovered other pieces of the mechanisms behind sleep and wakefulness involved. The molecular mechanisms helped establish the backbone of 21st-century sleep science.