Photo courtesy of the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute. From left to right: Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young

Photo courtesy of the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute. From left to right: Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young

By Thierry Malleret, economist

In an interesting twist, the recent Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine adds a wellness facet to this digital saga. It’s just been awarded to three American scientists (Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young) for their work on the gene that ‘drives’ the biological clock of all living organisms.

Their work, which goes back to the 1980s, has identified the molecule (called ‘period’), which exists in almost every cell of our bodies – not only in our brains, but also elsewhere, like in the gut, liver or fat. Their research is crucial for understanding how the light emanating from our screens (the blue-light) affects our wellbeing, taking us further and further out of synch with the biological clock that operates as our internal timekeeper.

Messing with it impacts critical functions such as hormone levels, metabolism, heart rate and, of course, behaviour. Simple suggestions such as turning off our computers a few hours before going to bed originate in their work and are anchored in their research.

On a separate note, it’s interesting to observe that predictions for this year’s Nobel Prize were going in the direction of cutting-edge new technologies such as immune-oncology, Crispr or new biofuels. The fact that this prestigious prize was awarded to a less-trendy field of research with fundamental human wellbeing implications is a testimony to the rising importance of wellness in our everyday lives.

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AuthorThierry Malleret, Economist and Founder, Monthly Barometer