Biological Clock Researchers Win 2017 Nobel Prize In Physiology Or Medicine



The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded this morning jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their work on the mechanisms of circadian rhythms, the process of how our internal biological clock is regulated throughout the day. Our daily or circadian clock is regulated by the oscillation of a protein in our brains that regulates behaviors from sleep/wake cycles and appetite to blood pressure and body temperature.

Hall and Rosbach both did their prize-winning research at Brandeis University; Hall is retired while Rosbash is still on faculty. Young did his work at Rockefeller University, where he remains on faculty and is also vice president for academic affairs.

How the work was done is particularly noteworthy as the researchers made their original discoveries, starting in 1984, using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. These lower model systems are genetically powerful and experiments can be done that can't in humans, yet provide insights on processes that are conserved across species.

The three gentlemen have been collectively recognized before with the 2011 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University and the 2013 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine.

The genetic demonstration of the existence of a gene controlling the daily cycle, called period, was first identified by Seymour Benzer and his graduate student Ronald Konopka at Cal Tech. However, Benzer died in 2007 and Konopka in 2015; the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.

When Konopka died of a heart attack in 2015, one of this year's laureates, Rosbach, wrote this in Cell about the 1971 Konopka and Benzer paper:

He [Konopka] published his thesis work along with his mentor Seymour Benzer in what is perhaps the single most influential paper in circadian rhythms (Konopka and Benzer, PNAS 68, 2112–2116; [open-access PDF]). The field has spent much of the subsequent 45 years deciphering the meaning and validating (over and over again) the importance of this Rosetta stone. It began the modern era of circadian biology and is the cornerstone of my own circadian career. As if this were not enough, it is arguably the landmark paper in behavioral genetics writ large.

Source Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkroll/2017/10/02/biological-clock-researchers-win-2017-nobel-prize-in-physiology-or-medicine/#6d0ff60c339d


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