Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for 2017 announced

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.


“Life on Earth is adapted to the rotation of our planet. For many years we have known that living organisms, including humans, have an internal, biological clock that helps them anticipate and adapt to the regular rhythm of the day. But how does this clock actually work? Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings. Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions.

Using fruit flies as a model organism, this year’s Nobel laureates isolated a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm. They showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day. Subsequently, they identified additional protein components of this machinery, exposing the mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell. We now recognise that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans.

With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behaviour, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism. Our wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock, for example when we travel across several time zones and experience “jet lag”. There are also indications that chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases.”



The above is a section of press release. For more in depth information on circadian rhythms, as well as these three incredible scientists, please click here for the full press release please. Additionally, there is a great podcast by Melvyn Bragg and guests (Prof Russell Foster, University of Oxford; Prof Debra Skene, University of Surrey; Prof Emeritus Steve Jones, UCL) on his In Our Time series, providing an excellent introduction to circadian rhythms – listen to it here.


Their suggested reading list includes the following:

  • Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman, Seasons of Life: The Biological Rhythms That Enable Living Things to Thrive and Survive (Profile Books, 2009)
  • Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman, The Rhythms Of Life: The Biological Clocks That Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing (Profile Books, 2004)
  • Jim Horne, Sleepfaring: A Journey through the Science of Sleep (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Penelope A. Lewis, The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
  • Steven W. Lockley and Russell G. Foster, Sleep: A Very Short Introduction(Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Paul Martin, Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams (First published 2002; Flamingo 2010)




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