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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, October 03, 2017 1:00 am

Nobel prizes for body clock work

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Three Americans won a Nobel Prize on Monday for discovering key genetic “gears” of the body's 24-hour biological clock, the mechanism best known for causing jet lag when it falls out of sync.

Problems with our body clock have also been linked to such disorders as sleep problems, depression, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Researchers are now trying to find ways to tinker with the clock to improve human health, the Nobel committee said in Stockholm.

It awarded the $1.1 million Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Jeffrey C. Hall and Michael Rosbash, who worked together at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and Michael W. Young of Rockefeller University in New York.

They “were able to peek inside our biological clock” and discover details of its inner workings, the Nobel citation said.

The work, done in fruit flies and dating back to 1984, identified genes and proteins that work together in people and other animals to synchronize internal activities throughout the day and night. Various clocks in the brain and elsewhere in the body, working together, regulate things like sleep patterns, eating habits and the release of hormones and blood pressure. Such 24-hour patterns are called circadian rhythms.

At age 72, the retired Hall wryly noted that he was already awake when the call about the prize came around 5 a.m., because of age-related changes in his own circadian rhythms.