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Nobel Prize for research on circadian rhythms: What it means?

Three American scientists recently won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discoveries of the microscopic biological machinery that controls the circadian rhythm, or the 24-hour body clock. This research is on the internal clock that governs the living organisms’ activities including humans, whose hormone levels, temperature, sleeping cycles, and metabolism are monitored as per this internal clock. These biological clocks are also responsible for maintaining health and overall wellbeing of an individual, explaining phenomena such as jet lag and menstrual cycles. The laureates – Jeffrey C. Hall (University of Maine), Michael Rosbash (Brandeis University), and Michael W. Young (Rockefeller University) — “were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings,” the Nobel Prize Committee said in a press release. “Their discoveries explain how plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions.” The researchers were able to isolate the period gene and discovered the protein encoded by this gene, which was observed to build up in bodies at night and degrade at day time- completing a whole cycle of circadian rhythm. This discovery led to more observations on how circadian rhythms are created and sustained. Additional proteins were also found that activated this period gene. This landmark discovery establishes key mechanistic principles for biological clock, and thus helps in elucidating the clockwork mechanisms that govern stability and function of the human body.

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