2017 Noble Prize in Medicine Awarded to the Pioneers Who Have Discovered How Our Body Clock Works

The 2017 Noble Prize has been awarded jointly to three biologists namely Jeffry C. Hall, Michael Robash from the Brandeis University and Micheal W. Young from the Rockefeller University.

Our Biological Clock

How does our body understand and sets a rhythm for hours to wake and sleep? It exactly knows night time is sleep time and daytime is work time. Who tells our body the waking and the sleeping hours? Is it the outside environment or there is a biological clock inside our body. Surely it is not the outside environment because when you take a trans-Atlantic flight from saying Kolkata to New York, you feel sleepy through the day in New York, which is common parlance is called the jet lag. Something within our body is giving the signal that it is sleep time despite it being daytime in New York, the biological clock is tuned to the Day and Night cycle of Kolkata, The clock regulates not only sleep but also critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism. Our wellbeing is affected when our external environment and our internal biological clock are not in sync, those having experienced Jet Lag will testify to the uncomfortable feeling.

Wow, but then how does the body keep track of time: 

In 1984, Jeffery Hall and Michael Rosbash isolated the period gene which is the main mechanism of the body clock. They discovered that the PER protein encoded by the period gene accumulated during the night and was degraded during the day. Protein levels oscillate over a 24 hour period, in synchrony with the biological clock rhythm

The question remained what triggers the start and stop of the protein generation by period gene over a 24-hour cycle:

In comes Prof Michael Young, the third laureate who identified yet another gene, double-time, which synthesized the DBT protein that delayed the accumulation of the protein synthesized by the period gene. This provided insight into how the body clock matched a 24-hour cycle.

But the gene is in the nucleus and the protein is produced in the cytoplasm. How does the protein reach the nucleus to trigger the on and off switch in the period gene:

In 1994 Michael Young discovered a second clock gene, timeless, encoding the TIM protein. He demonstrated that when TIM bundled to PER, the two proteins enter the cell nucleus where they blocked period gene activity to close the inhibitory feedback loop. The inhibitory feedback loop had been hypothesized by Jeffery Hall and Michael Rosbash wherein PER protein blocked the activity of the period gene and thus regulated its own synthesis.

Research into the biological clock and its implication on our health and well being have developed into a robust research field, thanks to the path-breaking work of the 2017 Noble laureates in medicine.

Branolia Chemical Works salutes these stalwarts who have pushed the frontiers of medicine. Branolia manufactures leading Ayurvedic brands like Kulleron, Branolia, Bitocough, Livonia and Honey Guard. Ayurveda has long known the biological clock mechanism and that each time of the day has an energy level associated with it. The mechanism by which this is regulated has now been discovered by the 2017 Noble laureates.

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