US trio awarded for body clock discoveries
Three Americans have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries about the body’s biological clock.
Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young won the nine million kronor (£820,000) prize for their work on finding genetic mechanisms behind circadian rhythms, which adapt the workings of the body to different phases of the day, influencing sleep, behaviour, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism. They “were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings”, the Nobel citation said.
“Circadian dysfunction has been linked to sleep disorders, as well as depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive function, memory formation and some neurological diseases,” according to a Nobel background report.
Michael Hastings, a scientist at the UK’s Medical Research Council, said the discoveries had opened up a whole new field of study for biology and medicine.
He said: “Until then, the body clock was viewed as a sort of black box. We knew nothing about its operation. But what they did was get the genes that made the body clock, and once you’ve got the genes, you can take the field wherever you want to. It’s a field that has exploded massively, propelled by the discoveries by these guys.”