Fruit flies help scientists to win Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

  • Fruit flies continue to help scientists again. This time they help Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young to win The Nobel for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. A press release from The   Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute has announced yesterday.

The Nobel committee summarized  the discovery thus:

“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.”

They used fruit flies as a model organism and  isolated a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm.  Every cell in the flies’ body is a living  biochemical factory Believe it or not,  If the scientists are correct  this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day. This may very well be the case for humans.

Later, they identified additional protein components of this machinery, exposing the mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell.

“We now recognize that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans.” the release from Karolinska Institute clarified.

“With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, 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 release added

You can read the background information on developments which led to the discovery, how these Nobel Laureates discovered the gene, a list of their key publications and  brief life history of the Laureates at the following link:

https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2017/press.html

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About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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