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Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded for Work on Biological Clock
The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young for their discovery of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm..
The trio won the prize for their discovery of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. In short, the researchers were able to peek inside the biological clocks of living organismswhich help to regulate sleep patterns, feeding behavior, hormone release, and blood pressureto better understand how life responds to the Earths rotation.
Why it matters:
In humans, these clock genes control the production of insulin and other hormones involved in maintaining how our bodies process food. Disruption of the genes through sleep deprivation or mutation alters brain functions and has been tied to sleep disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and memory defects. Out of whack circadian rhythms also increase a persons risk for cancer, obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
Who Was Overlooked for the Prize This Year?
As always, there were other groundbreaking discoveries in contention. They included work by Dr. James P. Allison of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Gordon J. Freeman of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Dr. Arlene Sharpe of Harvard Medical School; they have learned how to harness the bodys immune system to fight cancer.
Another contender was Crispr, a gene-editing system that is rapidly transforming medical research. It was discovered by four scientists: Jennifer A. Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley, Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute and George Church of Harvard.(They have been involved in a high-profile dispute over patent rights; in any event, the Nobel can be shared by a maximum of three scientists.)
Also overlooked this year were investigators who discovered genes that predispose to cancer and who found drugs that home in on cancer-causing mutations, as well as scientists who discovered how proteins can muffle DNA and others whose work was crucial to brain imaging.