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Brandeis researchers receive Canadian science prize

Two neuroscientists from Brandeis University have been awarded a major Canadian biomedical research award for their work on the biological clock of fruit flies.

The researchers, neuroscience professor Michael Rosbash and emeritus biology professor Jeffrey C. Hall, discovered through a longstanding collaboration a group of genes that regulates fruit flies’ body clocks. Those circadian rhythms are important because in humans as well as in fruit flies and other animals, they govern the timing of bodily functions, from hormone fluctuations, to wake and sleep cycles. Such clocks have been discovered in organs throughout the body, including the brain, lungs, and skin.

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The Canada Gairdner award, shared with Michael W. Young of Rockefeller University, is Canada’s top international scientific honor. Each winner will receive a $100,000 cash prize.

“Understanding this cycle has the potential to lead to improvements in the treatments of a variety of diseases that are controlled by the circadian cycle. Potential applications include new sleep drugs that are more effective, a cure for jet lag and ways to combat certain forms of depression,” the Gairdner Foundation said in its citation. “Virtually anything that these rhythms touch is a potential target for therapeutic intervention.”

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.
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