Three US scientists, Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young, who have discovered how our bodies tell time have won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
Could this be the beginning of the end for jet lag?
Our body has an internal clock - otherwise known as the circadian rhythm, which dictates when its time to sleep and drives other things such as mood, hormones, metabolism and temperature. All of these things fluctuate through a 24hr cycle in a steady pattern. Disrupting this with things like travelling across time zones or shift work, messes with our body clock and puts us out of kilter. Day and night become confused, knowing when to sleep and when to stay awake becomes erratic and hard to predict. Being out of synch with the world around us puts us under pressure both mentally and physically. Even a day or two of body clock disruption can negatively affect memory formation. More sustained periods increase the risk of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
It was already known that this inner clock is present in nearly every cell of the human body, as well as in plants, animals and fungi. The new revelation, for which the trio won the prize revealed exactly how this 'clock' function works. By studying fruit flies, they isolated a section of DNA called the period gene, which contains instructions for making a protein called PER and noted how the levels changed over a 24-hour cycle - rising during the night and falling during the day. They also found out what makes this rise and fall stable and what makes it fluctuate. In doing so they they had uncovered the workings of the molecular clock inside the fly's cells.
The Nobel prize committee said their findings had "vast implications for our health and wellbeing".
Another bit of sleep science know how has just clicked in to place. Well done gentlemen.