Circadian rhythm research wins Medicine Nobel

“The moral of the story is, as in real estate, location, location, location.”

So wrote US geneticist Michael Rosbash this year in a memoir titled ‘A 50-Year Personal Journey: Location, Gene Expression, and Circadian Rhythms’

In the piece, published in the journal Perspectives in Biology, the Brandeis University professor – and now Nobel Prize winner – revealed he had “worked almost exclusively on nucleic acids and gene expression from the age of 19.”

He recounted how his research career focussed on gene expression and genetics, and how his chosen focus of research was for many years yeast, before switching to fruit flies.

His work eventually settled on deciphering the mechanics of how the body’s time-keeping abilities informed the regulation of circadian rhythms – and how this internal system synchronised with the revolutions of the Earth.

This week, the “location, location, location” of particular import to Rosbash was the Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

There, Nobel Committee of Medicine chairman Thomas Perlmann announced that Rosbash and his colleagues Michael Young and Jeffrey Hall had jointly been awarded 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their work on how the circadian clock is regulated by a protein produced by a single gene.

As well as being the ultimate science honour, the award also carries a prize of $1.4 million dollars.

According to reports, Rosbash’s reaction on first being told that he was joint winner of the prize was to fall silent, and then say, “You’re kidding me.”

It is a moment that will perhaps be recounted in his next memoir.

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