Every year, The Nobel Foundation awards prizes to those who have made great contributions in the fields of Medicine, Peace, Literature, Chemistry, Physics, and Economics. This set of prizes was set up in 1895 by Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and other explosives!
It has just been announced that Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young are three American scientists who have won the Nobel prize for Medicine in 2017, and will share this honour along with the 825,000 GBP prize money! They have received this for work that they published in 1984. Their research: How the bodies of living things are regulated by an internal clock that is influenced by the revolutions of the earth.
Wait a second: What do the earth’s revolutions have to do with my body? And where do I find this clock in my body?
We all have an internal rhythm inside our bodies that is called the ‘circadian rhythm’ and biological clock. This basically is the way that the various functions in the body are influenced as the day progresses on. One of the things that influence this is light. The scientists showed that there is a substance made inside our bodies by a gene called the ‘period gene’. This gene makes a protein at night. This protein gets used through the day and the level keeps getting lower. It is then replenished at night. The amount of light the organism is exposed to can influence the levels of this protein.
This is why you tend to feel sleepy around the same time every evening, tend to be freshest when you wake at a certain time every day, and get thrown off when you take a long flight to some place that is in a different time zone and different light and dark patterns!
Why is this such an important finding? Factors that influence the circadian rhythms of various animals and humans can also have an impact on the development of various diseases and also on the medicines used to treat the diseases!