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Genes controlling sleep and circadian rhythms
Wednesday, October 17, 2018,
3:00:00 PM Time displayed is Eastern Time, Washington DC Local
Along with colleagues Jeffrey C. Hall and Michael Rosbash, Dr. Young received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms.
Dr. Young's laboratory has identified genes that control the circadian rhythms of Drosophila. Interactions among these genes and their proteins set up a network of oscillations within single cells. These oscillations are autonomously generated, are found in most tissues, and establish rhythms in physiology and behavior. This mechanism is conserved within the animal kingdom: similar clock genes regulate patterns of sleep and other rhythms in humans. A common form of human insomnia called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD) is characterized by a persistent and intractable delay in the timing of the major sleep episode. A study of several DSPD subjects allowed Dr. Young's laboratory to recognize a specific clock gene variant that affects behavioral, physiological, and molecular circadian rhythms of carriers under controlled laboratory conditions. The lab's results are consistent with the candidate allele encoding a dominant, hyperactive transcription factor that alters sleep and circadian rhythms by lengthening the period of the circadian clock.