Nobel Prize 2017 Awarded to Body Clock Researchers

Validation ... at last. This year's Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to three American chronobiologists for their research on the gene that regulates the internal biological clock. I'm thrilled this prestigious award will bring attention to how the human internal clock controls our circadian rhythms and therefore our sleep, and how many sleep disorders are caused by genetic variants and are therefore intractable.

Drs. Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young isolated the period gene, a regulator of the internal biological clock, in Drosophila (fruit flies). This led to the identification of the period gene in humans by other researchers. The period gene, which produces a protein called 'PER,' accumulates during the night and breaks down the during day.

Renowned chronobiologist Dr. Russell Foster describes the scientific trio as "the people who gave us our first working model of how the molecular clock might tick."

"Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth's revolutions," the Noble Prize committee announced. This is of particular interest to me as I've long felt that my sleep disorder is the result of my biological rhythms being out of synch with society and the rest of the planet!  Although research in this area is burgeoning, it does look like I have a 26-hour+ clock, which puts my rhythms out of synch with the 24-hour rotation of the Earth.

In 2012, Hall, Rosbash and Young were recognized with the Canada Gairdner International Award for pioneering science’s understanding of circadian rhythms. Dr. Young said in this interview at the time: "The medical relevance of these findings has become apparent as it was found that changes in clock genes are associated with a series of sleep disorders in humans.” As you know from my previous posts, I have mutations of my clock genes (specifically the genes CRY1, PER3, CLOCK).

 

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