Nobel Prize Winners for Medicine react with surprise

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STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Three Americans won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for their discoveries about the body's daily rhythms, opening up whole new fields of research and raising awareness about the importance of getting proper sleep.
Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young won 9-million-kronor ($1.1 million) prize for isolating a gene that controls the body's normal daily biological rhythm. Circadian rhythms adapt the workings of the body to different phases of the day, influencing sleep, behavior, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism.
They "were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings," the Nobel citation said.
Rosbash is on the faculty at Brandeis University, Young is at Rockefeller University and Hall has been associated with the University of Maine.
Rosbash says, at 73, it's usually never good to get a call at 5:09 a.m. on your landline.
He told The Associated Press on Monday that "when the landline rings at that hour, normally it's because someone died."
Then, on finding out that he had won a Nobel Prize: "I was stunned, shocked."
Jeffrey Hall, 72 wryly noted that he was already awake when he received the call from Sweden about his Nobel Prize in medicine because of changes in his circadian rhythm as he has grown older.
Speaking from his home in rural Cambridge, Maine, he says "I said `Is this a prank?' I didn't really believe it. I didn't expect it."
Hall said scientists have known about circadian rhythms since the 1700s. He said understanding the mechanics of the circadian rhythm can provide researchers with an opportunity to address circadian rhythm disorders that contribute to sleep problems.
He says "If you understand how the normal process works, that gives you a chance, not an inevitability, but a chance to influence the internal workings of the clock and possibly to improve a patient's well-being."
Michael Young said the news of the award came as a shock.
He says "This really did take me by surprise. I had trouble even getting my shoes on this morning."
Asked about possible medical payoffs from the work, he said "we're just starting with this." But he noted that a genetic mutation has been found in some people who have chronic trouble getting to sleep at night.
Young says this "gives us ways of thinking we didn't have before ... I think we're going to run into this over and over."

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