STOCKHOLM/LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. scientists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young won the 2017 Nobel prize for medicine on Monday for unraveling molecular mechanisms that control our internal body clocks.
These help explain how people experience jet lag when their internal circadian rhythms get out of sync, while also having wider implications for disorders ranging from insomnia to depression to heart disease.
Chronobiology, or the study of biological clocks, is now a growing field of research thanks to the pioneering work of the three scientists, who explained the role of specific genes in keeping animal bodies in step with light and darkness.
Today scientists are exploring novel approaches to new treatments based on such circadian cycles, including establishing the best times to take medicines, and there is an increased focus on the importance of healthy sleeping patterns.
“This ability to prepare for the regular daily fluctuations is crucial for all life forms,” Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Karolinska Institute Nobel Committee, told reporters.
“This year’s Nobel prize laureates have been studying this fundamental problem and solved the mystery of how an inner clock in our bodies can anticipate daily fluctuations between night and day to optimize our behavior and physiology.”
Rosbash said the news that the trio had won the Nobel prize, which is worth 9 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million), was “a little overwhelming”.
“It took my breath away, literally. I was woken up out of deep sleep and it was shocking,” he told Reuters.
“It’s great for basic science. It hasn’t had a tremendous amount of practical impact yet, so it’s really a very basic discovery … It’s good to have the attention on this kind of basic…