Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to three American researchers
This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to the three Americans Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young for their basic research into the workings of the "inner clock". "Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adjust their biological rhythm so that it is synchornised with the Earth's revolutions," explained the jury. In the 1980s the prize winners isolated a gene that controls this rhythm and found that the associated PER protein is accumulated in the cells at night and degraded during the day. Day and night are thus rooted in the genetic make-up of humans.
This biological clock is involved in many aspects of the complex human physiology: our well-being is compromised if there is a discrepancy between the external environment and the inner clock, in the case of "jetlag", for example. It is also known that people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be successfully treated with light therapy. And there is evidence that chronic misalignment between lifestyle and biorhythms leads to an increased risk of disease. Chronobiology has become a highly dynamic field of research since the fundamental discoveries were made by the three prize winners.
Light as the master timer
The discovery of special photoreceptors in the eye which are responsible for the non-visual effects of light paved the way for advanced lighting concepts that support people by mimicking the progression of natural daylight. They make people feel better, raise their performance and improve their sleep. People are nowadays expected to work more or less around the clock – and biologically effective lighting can help to resynchronise the inner clock. Such lighting, however, only became technologically possible following the development of the LED: its colour setting and colour rendering capacity combined with the superior controllability of the light sources paved the way for light which puts people and their needs first.