This year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded to three American scientists who discovered which biological mechanisms are responsible with keeping our circadian rhythm well and functioning. With the help of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), they managed to find out which are the proteins that control one’s biological clock.
Finding the molecular mechanism behind the circadian rhythm
Scientists Michael Rosbash, Jeffrey C. Hall, and Michael W. Young were those who managed to put together each tiny molecular mechanism which controlled the well-functioning of the circadian rhythm. While working with the fruit fly’s genome, they discovered that altering one specific gene sequence could disturb the entire biological clock of the insect.
After modifying the gene, they changed the sound of the fly’s mating call, as well as its normal trajectories of flight. Afterwards, they could restore this gene and regain the previous balance of the circadian rhythm. However, the greatest achievement was to isolate the gene, and discover what it contains.
The discovery earned the scientists a Nobel Prize
DNA needs RNA to actually create proteins which are responsible with different genetic tasks, so the researchers had to look at the RNA present in the genetic sequence. This is how they found out the quantity of RNA varied depending on how much light the flies received during the day. Therefore, certain proteins also appeared in varying amounts in the genes.
However, this protein couldn’t function so chaotically, so it needed something to regulate it. Researchers kept searching, and found a different chemical which worked individually, regardless of the light and time of the day. This could control the flux of the daylight protein, and regulate its flow whenever the circadian rhythm seemed to get out of hand.
The circadian rhythm is probably the most complex mechanism which keeps our organism going. Many scientists have been struggling to understand it, so this landmark discovery of the three researchers earned them a Nobel Prize.
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