Nobel Prize in Medicine Goes to Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young

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A stage was set in Stockholm on Monday for the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

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Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.

The three United States-born scientists used fruit flies to isolate a gene that controls the rhythm of a living organism’s daily life. Mr. Hall, Mr. Rosbash and Mr. Young were “able to peek inside our biological clock,” helping make discoveries that “explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions,” the Nobel Prize committee said.

By examining the internal workings of fruit flies, the three helped determine that the gene they were analyzing encoded a protein that accumulated in a cell at night, and then degraded during the day.

Why is the work important?

The Nobel committee said the research was significant because it had identified the mechanism governing the clockwork inside a cell, shedding important light on humans and many other multicellular organisms because their biological clocks functioned by the same principle as those in fruit flies.

“With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day,” it said. “The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism.”

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Their work was notable, the committee said, because the misalignment between a person’s lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by an inner timekeeper — jet-lag after a trans-Atlantic flight, for example — could affect well-being, and, over time, could contribute to a risk for various diseases.

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