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Joke Meijer on the Nobel Prize for the biological clock

This year's Nobel Prize for Medicine goes to the three American researchers who have unravelled the mechanism behind the biological clock. Joke Meijer, Professor of Neurophysiology and an expert in the field of the sleep-wake rhythm, explained in Dutch newspapers Trouw and NRC why this discovery is so important.

The news is a few days old, but Joke Meijer, Professor of Neurophysiology at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), is still delighted that the Nobel Prize for Medicine has gone to three pioneers in her field of study: Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young. It is especially pleasing given that Meijer received a prize from Jeffrey Hall in 1993 for her research on the mammalian biological clock.

It is wonderful that, at the highest academic level, there is now recognition for research on the biological clock. Research which in this country - and she believes this is typically Dutch - is mostly reduced to good or bad sleep patterns. However, there is so much more to it than that. The biological clock also controls all the organs and tissues in the body (except for the central nervous system). The biological clock is like a conductor, making sure that all the instruments play in tune; fast during the day, slow at night.

Read more in Trouw > (in Dutch)

'What? Really?' neurobiologist Joke Meijer from the LUMC in Leiden exclaimed over the phone when she heard the news that Hall, Rosbash and Young had received the Nobel Prize for their pioneering work on the biological clock. The most tangible and physical evidence for the existence of the biological clock is jetlag after a long flight. The body continues working in the old rhythm, leaving travellers unable to sleep at night and struggling to keep their eyes open during the day. It takes some time before the internal clock becomes attuned to the new rhythm. The Nobel Prize winners were able to isolate the two genes which form the basis of our body’s 24-hour rhythm.

Read more in NRC Handelsblad > (in Dutch)