£825,000 prize shared between American scientists Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young for work on the internal clock of living organisms
The American scientists Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young, who have won this year’s prize. Illustration: NobelPrize.org
The 108th Nobel prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to a trio of American scientists for their discoveries on the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms – in other words, the 24-hour body clock.
According to the Nobel committee’s citation, Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young were recognised for their discoveries explaining “how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronised with the Earth’s revolutions.”
The team identified a gene within fruit flies that controls the creatures’ daily rhythm, known as the “period” gene. This gene encodes a protein within the cell during the night which then degrades during the day
When there is a mismatch between this internal “clock” and the external surroundings, it can affect the organism’s wellbeing – for example, in humans, when we experience jet lag.
The announcement was met by disbelief by the winners. “You are kidding me,” Rosbash replied when he got the call. Hall’s reaction was similar: “I said, ‘is this a prank?’” he told the GuardianThe Guardian Premio Nobel Medicina 2017