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Nobel Prize Winners Unlocked Your Sleep Secrets
03 October 2017, 08:50 | Ruben Fields
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All life on Earth has evolved on a planet that spins on its axis once every 24 hours.
Three Americans shared the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology, which like the other prizes now amounts to SEK 9 million. During the 18th century, the astronomer Jean Jacques d'Ortous de Mairan studied mimosa plants, and found that the leaves opened towards the sun during daytime and closed at dusk.
In the mid of 1980, these three laureates tested the fruit flies for isolating gene, which can control the common biological rhythm and discovered the way of encoding a protein accumulated during the night in cell and degrades in a day. Young followed up on the research by uncovering two other genes that play important roles in the process. Later evidence showed that essentially all organisms had some internal biological clock that allowed them to match their physiology to the day-night cycle.
Young discovered genes that encode other proteins involved in the circadian rhythm. "The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism". This gene contained instructions for making a protein called "PER".
In the 1980s, Hall and Rosbash, working at Brandeis, and, separately, Young at Rockefeller isolated the circadian rhythmgenes. They found that mutations in an unknown gene disrupted flies' circadianclock and named the gene "period", or per.
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The committee highlighted how the scientists' work helped to explain how a misalignment between a person's lifestyle and circadian rhythm - through jet lag, for example - could affect his or her well-being over time and increase their susceptibility to various diseases.
Rosbash, born in 1944 in Kansas City, Missouri, to parents who had fled Nazi Germany, received his doctoral degree in 1970 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has since 1974 been on faculty at Brandeis University, where he worked closely with Hall on his prize-winning research. This provided insight into how an oscillation is adjusted to more closely match a 24-hour cycle.
Achim Kramer, who has a lab devoted to studying the biological clock here at the Charité-Berlin University of Medicine, said the discovery set the grounds for biologists' understanding of the molecular makeup of the biological clock.
The Nobel prize committee said their findings had "vast implications for our health and wellbeing".
"Without this, we couldn't argue for later school times on evidence-based grounds; we couldn't look for the best time to take your medicine; we couldn't find an interrelation between metabolic disorders and clock disorders", Kramer told Live Science.
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